Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

When you're forgotten and invisible

So if you are walking down the street one day, and you see some old and hollowed eyes, 
please don't pass them by again, say "Hello in there, hello" [John Prine]

Martyn and I, and Opie, popped over to Cove's Edge on Monday afternoon so Opie could spin around the complex in his Love Mobile. I usually go on Thursdays but due to holiday I went on Monday-I didn't not want to go, I know how hard the holidays can be, the memories they trigger, the sadness of beautiful Christmas songs.

We had nice visit. When we arrived, we were told Opie was greatly needed today, many of the residents were angry or grumpy with each other. We all knew the holiday was bringing that up. Many of the people in these residences do have family within driving distance, some even quite close, but they never come. I've already met some who endure that lonlieness, and it is not made up, I know it to be true.

It is hard to see your loved one in a home no matter how good the quality. Cove's Edge is part of a group of facilities here, one is for independendant living [they came to the farm this summer], one is for people who can live alone but need help so have their own apartment, and Cove's Edge is for rehab, hospice and full time care, I guess you might say it is often the end of the line. I have been to places that are truly depressing the minute you walk in the door but Cove's Edge is not like that. The staff are very good too, and they do a really good job creating a life within the halls of the place, even though most are wheelchair bound or bed bound.

No matter what positive spin one puts on it, it is hard. A body gets old but the mind is still there. Or a mind goes and the body is strong. Mates of fifty years die, dogs must be left behind, grandchildren feel funny visiting Gamma in a bed...

In some ways, it is easier for me. These are not my family. I do not have any dynamics or conflicting relationship issues with these people. My role is to bring a smile, a goat on wheels, and soon a puppy. And we will be doing that consistently, on a set weekday so the elders know it is part of their lives.

Martyn and I almost didn't go yesterday because I had not heard back from my contact-this is very, very busy and stressful time there and she handles it with humor and grace, but at the last minute she wrote and asked if could still come. And we hopped in the truck with Opie and arrived. I am so glad we went. We were needed, not just for the residents but the staff. We had some beautiful visits, we always do. There is never a visit that doesn't bring something to them, or me, or Opie. Opie was spot on and very focused.

One of the most touching cases we have there is a woman in her fifties who had issues that have left her immobile, speechless and wheelchair and bed bound. And she loves animals. We have visited with her with the pony and llama and now Opie. She is excited to meet Bear. I am bound not to disclose certain things due to privacy laws [like names, of course] but I have to say when I heard she has family that never comes, it is so sad. I don't know the reasons, it is their business. But no matter what, she is a young woman in a hurt body, and I know it is a depressing situation for her. I walk out of there and wonder how long the effect of an Opie visit might help. Does it matter if it is a minute or a day? Perhaps the more times we visit she will understand– I keep my word–I will be back, weekly.

When we were ready to go after an hour and a half, we wheeled out to the door, and many residents were told Opie was leaving so they got wheeled over to the entry-it took us awhile to get out of there-so sweet!

Last night, Martyn and I decided this has been our best Christamas...because it is balanced. We have done some fun things we never do [out to lunch, buying food at a local farm, stocking stuffer gifts, special cheeses] and we have had fun on the farm. But we have also done two therapy visits togehter with Opie. We have each other, and we have shared ourselves, and our goat, with people who need love.

I'm grateful. We've had so many cards this year too! I think people are really starting to get what we are doing. And people have sent bells, a baby blanket for Bear so he can sit on people's laps...it's all heart warming.

This is a volitile time for our country, and planet. I suppose their are 30% of the population that think things are fine, but many of us don't. There is more fear mongering coming from the top down than I've ever witnessed in my life which began in 1958. I bet many of the people we visit with at the home are on the opposite spectrum of us politically and socially....but we have many things in common–we need love, and care, we can all be broken and we can all be empathetic to those that are broken [or should be, some are not capable of empathy].

But to be invisible while still inhabiting your body...to watch staff and others rush by your bedroom door as you lay in wait for the next dinner bell...televisions on all over...no animals to hold, no ability to simply get up, turn off a tv, and grab a book you want to read...we need to notice our elders.