This is a continuation of my last post, so if you're just joining in, it might make more sense to you if you read my previous post before beginning this one...
At first my relationship with Celia was stilted and uncomfortable. I'd visit and we'd just kind of sit there unless the weather was good and I could take her in a wheelchair around the grounds. She shared her room with a lady named Mary. Mary had a close family and lots of visitors and it wasn't long before Celia got a little jealous of all the attention Mary was receiving. My visits became important to Celia and if Mary tried to chat with me when I arrived, Celia made it very clear who's visitor I was!
Over time I learned that Celia had lost her left eye to cancer and that the bandages on her right leg helped support a bone that had never healed properly - the result of one of her many beatings. Still, she talked incessantly about her husband, Bert, and how she missed him. " 'E never come to see me!" she'd wail in her deep French accent, her heart clearly broken. I asked her about the abuse she had suffered at his hands all those years, but she simply shrugged and explained that while she worked as a waitress in a greasy diner, he laboured on the fishing boats and was gone for weeks at time. When he got home, they liked to drink and fight and many times she had deliberately provoked him. They had no children and she had never complained about their lifestyle - it was Social Services that took her away and hid her from him, she hadn't wanted to go.
I really couldn't argue with her or tell her she was wrong. It was her life, her plan and now here she was, spending her final days alone with a stranger who had been foisted upon her. I spoke to the volunteer coordinator about Celia's loneliness, but only Social Services could authorize permission for Celia's husband to visit.
By now I had settled into a new routine at home, started a full time job and my sister Deb had moved into my spare room to help out with my 2 girls while my husband was away at sea. I fell into visiting Celia twice most weeks. Sometimes I'd bring my sister along and we'd pop in on our way out shopping, but I'd usually come by on Sunday afternoon for an hour or so and always at 7:00 on Thursday nights to watch The Littlest Hobo with her (this was a half hour show about a German Shepherd that wandered into people's lives making a difference and moving on. At the time, I didn't see the connection to my relationship with Celia). Celia loved that show and that German Shepherd dog. "That's some smart dog!" she'd exclaim in her thick French accent, "I just love that leetle Hobo!"
One Sunday afternoon when I walked into Celia and Mary's room, I was surprised to see an elderly man sitting in the chair next to Celia's bed, holding tightly to her hand. Celia happily introduced me to her husband, Bert, a frail little man in a threadbare suit. He had finally found her, she gushed, and his nephew had brought him to visit. As long as he behaved, he had permission to see her every Sunday. My feelings about Celia and Bert's life together were unimportant - it wasn't for me to judge. I was simply happy that they were reunited, if that's what she wanted. Now my visits fell to only once a week, our regular Thursday night date with "Leetle Hobo".
Christmas came and I brought Celia a card and a gift. She opened the package and held tightly to the bangle bracelet, so happy to have it, but a little embarrassed that she had nothing for me. I kissed her forehead and assured her it was fine, but I thought at the time she was looking pale. I gave Mary my phone number and told her to call me if Celia should need anything.
Just a few nights later my phone rang and it was Mary. Celia had become ill and the amublance had come and taken her to the hospital. I thanked Mary for calling and made plans to stop at the hospital on my way home from work the very next night.
To be continued....