I was helping set-up the tables in the open area when I heard a voice laced with harsh indignation speak. "This is stupid. What's the reason for this garbage?"
I looked at him and continued with my task. He continued griping and shaking his head in annoyance.
I brought out the bright lemon-yellow napkins and red plastic plates carefully setting the table. I continued in this fashion until all ten tables were completed.
While I was walking to get the lemonade I collided with the complainer. "Sorry" I offered immediately.
"I just want to get this stuff over with so I can go home."
John was in his fifties, tall and slim with a sparse hairline. His nut-brown eyes were scanning the yard.
"John what's going on with you today? Is everything okay?"
"It's just I see no reason for this ridiculous outing. It takes about three hours to set-up for a one hour thing, and three hours to clean up. I see no reason for it." He ran his hand over his head, and continued, "I'm really tired too. I didn't sleep last night."
“I have to get going, if you want to speak later on...come to my office everything remains confidential as you know."
“But, you're the director and my boss...thanks." He stammered before walking away.
The music began to play songs, ballads, and swing-time music. I got to know them all. The grill was all fired up. The hamburgers, chicken and hot-dogs were producing a bouquet of tantalizing scents.
I opened the doors and began helping those who needed assistance to the tables. "You look so beautiful Mrs. Moore. I love your pink blouse. Did you bring your appetite with you today?" I smiled then hugged her tightly.
"Yes I'm hungry as a bear, I didn't eat breakfast today. So watch out here I come." She grabbed hold of my hand and kissed it. Her faded-blue eyes dancing with anticipation as she looked about quickly.
One by one they came out, each filled with a growing exhilaration as they neared the outing. Until, finally all sixty residents were outside. It took a little time and effort on the staff's part. But the residents were completely transformed whenever we had potluck outings.
The music of their era with foods they enjoyed from their times. Along with desserts they all voted on....ice cream was the winner three years running.
The interaction with staff and residents eating was delightful, and excellent for their well-being. Even the most apathetic ones would enjoy the hubbub and flurry of activity that occurred during these gatherings.
Faces that were old and weathered seemed to take on a different look. Their unbridled enthusiasm would break through their characteristically bored demeanors as they listened to their music and ate with their peers.
The stories were poignant, articulate and pleasant. Their memory was completely intact as they visited their past with vivid recall. The bond was evident as they laughed and kidded each other. One could almost relate the sounds from this scene to earlier times. Like a cafeteria in any high school so many years ago. One table was singing in harmony to Just the Way You Look Tonight by Fred Astaire.
As I got up to get a cup of lemonade, John came over.
"My mom might have to go into a nursing home. I'm scared. They all come here to...you know-"
"John. Take a look around. Do they look like they want to die right now?"
"It's about faith John. This is a Christian nursing home. So, although they may be down at times, they have their faith...and their family. I'm sure you'll be visiting your mom. And, I'm betting you'll make sure she's taken care of in every way. God will do the rest." I touched his arm and smiled.
“It's just so hard..."
" To see a parent failing in health after so many vibrant memories of them while growing up...it's tough. But, those days will remain in your heart. Your mom is getting ready for a new journey in her life, and the important thing is that you'll be there with her."
As we looked around we heard a loud chorus of Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree.
"And, John... in response to your earlier question about why do we do this?” I pointed, "there's your answer."
*This is based on an actual event that transpired during my time as a Director.
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