Her hands, fragile sparrows, shook as I gently spread lotion into her cool paper-thin skin.
Cupping her hands in the palms of mine, I lifted them to rest under her chin. "Mama, Roses. Can you smell them?" She cocks her head to the right, viewing a garden closed off from me. Inhaling deeply, she burrows her nose into invisible blossoms freshly picked.
Pushing her wheelchair outside, we stop under the cool mottled lacey shadows of a majestic tree. I kneel at her feet and remove her slippers. Squeezing lotion into my hands, I rub my palms together, warming the liquid, and then melt it into her skin.
Five patients are walking the circular trail, coming back full circle. All five are joyful when meeting us, holler 'hello' or shyly nodding a head. All five acts surprised to see us each time a loop is completed.
When an older Gentleman asks what I'm doing, my words trip and tangle, lost in the translation. Yet he holds his hands out and with a grin enthusiastically demands I 'give him some too.'
His eyes widen as the aroma of roses drift up and into what life has stamped upon him. His face relaxes. Words line orderly as he shares of Ministry. In China before World War II. Halfway through, he chokes up, but keeps talking, about his wife; flying home, she died on the plane. The two of them built foundations walled sturdy with lumber, all for the love of orphaned children, for the love of God. She loved pink roses, he said.
Quiet, I massage the lotion into his hands, feeling where calluses shadowed.
A beautiful petite gray-haired woman stops to watch. I hold up the bottle and ask if she wants lotion. No response. I make eye contact and ask again. Familiar shutters drop down over her eyes. Her curtain, like Mom’s draws tight across her face weaving fear as a tapestry. Her shoulders hunch in and down. Without thinking I softly touch her cheek trying to comfort. Startled, she jerks back, and then stops. Her head lifts, eyes shinning like two bright beacons. Grabbing my hands, she hugs them to her cheek. With awe she speaks reverently. “The roses are back!” Grinning, she slowly walks away.
Another patient joins us. She looks deep into my eyes, tearfully asking where her puppy went. Testing her personal space, I edge a little closer, loosely wrapping my arms around her waist and gently hug. Immediately she stops crying and pushes me back. “Flowers?” She asks, sniffing. I nod. Caressing her hands with my fingertips, I pray while applying lotion to her fragile skin. Words confuse, yet shone like lost gems rediscovered: Puppies and children and Grandchildren and Great-grandchildren are molded under this Lady’s care.
The last Gentleman eases over. He waits until all but my Mother and I are gone. Thrusting his hand forward, demands. “Gimmee some!”
Mom speaks. One word. Leaves me with my jaw hanging. “John...”
‘John’ wiggles his eyebrows then leans into me. Screams, “She’s a looker, ain’t she?” Spinning away, he heads back for another loop. Stops short. Slowly hobbles back bellowing loud enough to shake the leafs from the trees, “ I want what she’s got!” Cautiously I squeeze the bottle, complying, hesitantly blending the lotion into his rough hands. These hands are used to hard physical work. He yanks back, again spinning around to focus on his walk. “Smells good!” was his last commentary.
The last one around to visit clutches the bars to her walker. She greets us as I wish to always be greeted by those whom I cherish.
I wiggle my finger at her as an invitation, stamped with a smile on my face and wait with Mom as she works her way over.
“Hot!” She exclaimed as a short weather commentary, then plops onto a bench.
I move the walker. Kneel, and carefully take her hands in mine. Arthritis caused her fingers to knot. How did she hang onto the walker? Taking time with the lotion over her hands, wrists, up to her elbows I work the fragrance in as her face flickers with a hint of a smile.
Was it just the night before when I agonized over what to purchase as a gift for my Mother? Did I please her with memories? From the glances I stole - watching as she inhaled deep of fragrant times, I believe yes, and she did this accompanied by friends.
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