Thursday, May 03, 2007

bob

Seeing those women a couple days ago reminded me of an old friend. Bob came to us about eight years ago while receiving chemotherapy at a local hospital. He was in his seventies when I met him, a dapper and slightly wizened man with thinning white hair and excellent posture. He was staying in the nightly program but after awhile we were able to guarantee him a regular bed for a few months.

Time rolled by. Every morning I'd go to work and see Bob sitting out front with a hello young lady as I walked past. Bob never complained, back and forth to the hospital for treatment on the bus, recovering from the chemo at the shelter and never once did I hear him say one cross word.

After a period of time he achieved a sort of status; he'd counsel the young guys about how to navigate the programs, how to stay out of trouble, who could get what done in the easiest way. He was always charming; would notice if I wore something new, or if we'd made some sort of minor change to the facility. He had a keen eye and would offer suggestions in an easy way that made everyone want to take him seriously. He put effort into his appearance; his clothes were old and worn but always clean, a smart hat perched on his head. He'd carry chewing gum for the ladies.

After some time we noticed Bob getting sicker. Frail, a bit of a stoop to his back. The nurse on site told us that things were declining, that he probably didn't have much more time. She started talking to him about hospice and he refused to hear it. This is my home, he'd say. This is where I live. You are my family. This is where I live.

No one had the heart to tell him anything different; so instead we broke our own rules and kept him in the program, rationalizing it was the right thing to do. That no one could care for him better than we could. True or not, we did our best.

As he continued to decline, a wheelchair replacing the walker that had replaced the cane; I felt more compelled than ever to see if there was anything more we could do. He claimed to have two sons, but didn't want them to know he was dying. Years had passed and he said he'd done some things wrong. He didn't want to bother them and refused to let us intervene. His pride and decorum was part of who he was and there was no swaying him. I tried hard to convince him but he wouldn't budge. I can honestly say I loved him as I loved my own grandfather. I still do.

He kept getting sicker. The doctors decided there was nothing else they could do. He couldn't eat, had trouble sleeping. The nurse arranged for hospice care, she too cared deeply for him and pulled strings to find him a bed. I was with the nurse when she told him about the hospice bed; and it's the only time I ever saw him get angry. No. Please don't make me go. This is my home. I live HERE with all of you.

We were all crying that day, the day we all realized he needed more than we could possibly offer, even after the meals we brought to his bed, the other men assisting him in the bathroom. He needed around the clock care. We were never sure if he'd be alive when we got to work.

Bob moved into hospice and I visited him there the next day. He said he was left lying in bed since he arrived, that it was a horrible place to be. I hate it here. Please take me back home to the shelter. I helped him up and wheeled him out into the sun. We talked again about the past, about his life, I told him I loved him. He said it was the last time I would see him, he didn't want to live in this place, without us and his home he didn't want to live.

Bob died the next day. The nursing home called us and I went with another person to say goodbye. I smoothed what was left of his hair, we kissed his brow and tucked the blanket around his feet. I cried like a baby, my co-worker and I clutching each other sobbing in the middle of the nursing home.

We held a memorial service for him at the shelter and we made sure his remains (in a pauper's burial) were given a name and a space at a local cemetery. I needed to make sure he was remembered somehow, and at the time that meant a lot to me. But I know now it meant little, because he lives in my heart. He'll always share a room there.

Seeing those women reminded me of Bob, and the majesty of an old man who ended his long life in a homeless shelter; changing our lives. I hope he knows how blessed I was to know him, how his example, his quiet dignity, changed me forever.

It's time for our fifth Just Post Roundtable. If you have a post of yours or one you've appreciated that was written by someone else, please send them my way to girlplustwo (at) yahoo(dot) com by May 7th and I'll send you the button. Go on. It's good for the soul.

We'll link all posts and anyone who refers one (or more) in our Just Post Roundtable on the 10th. If this is new to you, please feel free to check it out here or at the JP buttons to your right.

32 comments:

kim said...

Your generous spirit continues to inspire and amaze me.

Aliki2006 said...

I found this inspirational too--and so very sad. It made me think of my grandmother who is dying--not alone, but in a tragic way.

slouching mom said...

jen, how i love your stories.

this was gorgeous.

and what a fine man bob was.

Oh, The Joys said...

And now he lives on with all of us.

Beck said...

Now I'm all teary.

meno said...

That was beautiful. He was a lucky man to have you and you all were lucky to know him.

Redneck Mommy said...

I have no words.

Cristi said...

Fragile yet strong. Poor yet rich in spirit. Your writing did justice to Bob's memory. Beautiful.

kaliroz said...

that broke my heart.

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

It sounds like you really made his life happier. Lucky Bob (and I loved his good posture:-))

Mad Hatter said...

Reading your blog is becoming overwhelming, Jen. The stories never stop. Never. Each one of your posts sings but it is the cumulative effect of all this writing that really hits home.

Blog Antagonist said...

You know what? We are lucky to have people like you in the world, dealing with the really hard stuff that we all try to pretend doesn't exist.

That was a truly beautiful story.

flutter said...

Oh Jen, I want to sob with you.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Jen, your stories are beautiful but they almost always make me cry. And I hate to cry, darn it.

But I still love your stories.

Tabba said...

Thanks for sharing.....and something about this post made me think of a kaleidoscope.....relating this to other people you have shared with us. Imagine if we could take their stories, their colors, their smiles and make a collage - the colors, the images that it would make. What I see in my mind just blows me away.
If that makes a lick of sense to you. I know what I'm trying to say, it's just not cohesive enough.

thailandchani said...

It amazes me how some people can grow where they're planted. Obviously, he was one of them.

Hel said...

He was lucky to have been so loved. They are lucky to have landed up at your shelter.

And I am lucky to have found you.

Your heart sees in colour.

pgoodness said...

What a poignant post. How lucky you both were; how lucky we all are now to know about Bob.

kristen said...

I loved reading this story Jen, thank you for sharing Bob with us - you were lucky to have him in your life and now I'm going to go have a little cry.

QT said...

You and Bob were meant to be, sister. Waht an inspirational story. Thanks for sharing it.

Binky said...

When are you going to write a book, anyway? I'd like to sit down with a nice printed volume of approximately 400 pages that I can turn and turn until I've finished the whole thing in one sitting. Though, I have a feeling I'd have to spend a lifetime trying to process it all...

Ruth Dynamite said...

Your experience has given you a lifetime of stories. How fortunate you are, and how fortunate are we.

jen said...

all:
you listening to my stories is the greatest therapy of all. (for me).

many years i've spent unable to sort it all out, both the joy and the sorrow. and now, it flows.

i thank you.

Penny. said...

I'm speechless, Jen. The way you put a story, dimension, history, emotion to the faces of the homeless is incredible. And, beautiful. So, beautiful. Was anyone ever able to contact his sons? I hate to think of what he might have done to alienate them so, or, I hate to think that they were so alienated.

Penny. said...

OTJ.

A perfect comment.

crazymumma said...

And now he is remembered by us.

Majestic. How he would have loved that.

Jen. That was beautiful. Thank you.

The Expatriate Chef said...

Hey, thanks. Again, you brought back many memories of the older adults I took care of, the ones I lost, the ones who only had family in us. It's good, it hurts, but it is good.

It's been 25 years, but I still think about one guy named Paul. He had a fever, and wanted an aspirin. But the damn records didn't mark if there were conflicts with medication or allergies. No home phone for the doctor. Nothing.

I had no idea if I could give it to him. I knew the owner would come in at 10:30, half drunk and just fall asleep. If Paul had problems, well, there may as well not have been anyone there. I held a washcloth on his head and stayed with him til I had to go. I was only 16. I cried in frustration.

Paul had pneumonia. The aspirin would not have done any good, except to ease a bit of pain. 25 years later, I regret not easing that pain. Being so helpless and in no position to help. I still think about that, and get angry all over again. That place, that awful, soulful place has stayed with me, and your posts do, too.

Laurie said...

A beautiful story of love and spirit. You all made his last days joyful and his passing as comfortable as possible. Bless you, Jen. Bless you.

KC said...

It says so much as to the kind of home your organization provides- that is what amazes me the most. No one in the hospital is itching to return to the shelter they came from. Mostly, they want to stay, even long after their medical needs have been addressed.

What love runs forth.

Pendullum said...

Home is where the heart is... So glad he found his way to you and all at the shelter...

NotSoSage said...

I'm at a conference and don't have much time, but I had to click over when I saw there was a new post.

And you've moved me, as you often do, to tears.

I've been thinking a lot about chosen family lately. You and Bob clearly chose each other.

xo

Lawyer Mama said...

You are such an amazing person, Jen.