Joy Is Where You Find It

waiting roomI was sitting in my doctor’s office waiting to be called in for a flu shot when I saw them enter: a man about my age and his quite elderly mother. He walked slowly, keeping cadence with her pace. She leaned over her walker and shuffled toward the check-in desk.

“My mom is here for her 11:00 appointment,” said the son, giving his mother’s name.

“Has she been in Africa in the last 21 days?” the receptionist asked in all seriousness.

The man looked over at his fragile mother, then back at the receptionist. “Well, I don’t think so, but I guess I should ask her,” he replied. He turned toward his mother and said in a voice loud enough for her and everyone in the waiting room to hear, “Mom, have you been in Africa in the last 21 days?”

From my perspective I couldn’t see the elderly woman’s face, but I could see her frail shoulders bouncing up and down as she chuckled to herself. “No,” she said, and as she turned to move toward a chair in the waiting room I could see the amusement in her eyes still. What a sweet moment the two of them shared. What unexpected joy was found in what was no doubt an appointment neither particularly wanted to keep. The receptionist was just following office procedure during this recent Ebola scare, and didn’t know she’d brightened the day of everyone within hearing distance in the process—especially the day of the elderly patient.

As soon as the man and his mom had come through the door, my heart had gone out to them. It’s impossible for me to see someone helping an elder they love without remembering such days with my mother-in-law and my mom, both now in heaven. Oh, how I prayed I could get my mom-in-law into Wendy’s for the cheeseburger and Frosty she craved without her falling. She planned morning doctor appointments so we could indulge ourselves at Wendy’s afterwards. I didn’t want her to fall on my watch.

My mom remained fairly mobile until near the end of her life, but I remember how cautiously I drove whenever I had her in the car, and how I insisted she wear her seatbelt—an invention she never appreciated fully.

But there was joy in those times, too. How I wish I could take Mary Frances for a Frosty, or Mom for a ride, one more time.

I was called in for my shot. Leaving the doctor’s office a few minutes later I walked by the chairs where the man and his mother were still waiting. The three of us shared a smile, and the knowledge that loving is always worth the price. Especially on days when a little unexpected joy comes your way.

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  1. Jan Keller says:

    God’s timing is perfect and HE provides wonderful subject matter. Beautiful!

  2. Betty Van Liere says:

    How nice of that son to let his mother reply. So often I hear a son or daughter answering for the elderly parent, taking away what’s left of their self-confidence.
    Once again, I appreciate another of your insightful writings, Nancy.

    • I had that same reaction, Betty. It adds to the “invisible” feeling when elders aren’t allowed to answer for themselves. Even though the answer may have been obvious, it was sweet of him to ask her to answer.

  3. Kathy Fitz says:

    Very sweet, Nancy! Yesterday my Mom was on my mind so often as it would have been her 92n’d Halloween Birthday! How blessed we are to have great memories and especially when we can remember with a chuckle, the times we had the “uncontrollables” in church or some other “quiet” place when we had to stifle our laughter over something that tickled our funny bones. Thanks for jogging those “lite” memories.

  4. Deborah Turner says:

    What a sweet story, Nancy! I feel such compassion for the elderly and such joy at their humor in spite of the difficulties of their lives. I think it’s so wonderful for those who have loving and caring children who make their exit from this world as comfortable as possible and totally filled with love.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Deborah. And it grieves me to think of any older person being all alone. Thanks for commenting.

  5. This afternoon we were returning some Halloween costumes as our church does “Trunk or Treat” for the children of the community. Upon returning the costumes our friends were just bringing home her Mom (who is on oxygen) as they just picked her up from having a manicure and pedicure to help brighten her day. We had taken a tea rose plant to help boost her spirits too. We unloaded their groceries as they got her into the house and reattached to the oxygen source in the house. By the time they got the elderly (85 years of experience) into the house we had unbagged the groceries for easier put away. We need to treasure the moments we can to help lift someone else’s spirits as often as possible. It is a large part of why we are here.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Cheryl. What was just a little extra time in your day totally MADE her day! Thanks for sharing.

  6. alice scott-ferguson says:

    sweet indeed
    takes a gentle eye to catch such moments
    and if anyone is qualified
    it is surely you, Nancy!!

  7. Nancy, love your touching anecdote on loving and unexpected joy. Thank you for noticing this mom and son and joining in their moments to embrace the lighthearted side of life. Excellent!

  8. Hey Nancy, I’ve enjoyed your blog posts over the years. I’ve shared them with relatives and friends and, they enjoy them as well. As a fellow Tennessean I appreciate your Southern roots and, spirit. It was an honor to work with you during our time at Current, I bow to you Miss Nancy. Take care and, keep up the good work.
    Go Vols, Pat

    • Thanks so much, Pat. I appreciate your postings AND your long-term friendship. Looks like the Vols will have a dynamite team in a year or so. I’ll keep watching whenever they are televised out here. I just wish they would show us the Pride of the Southland Marching Band!

  9. Nancy, during my recent visit to my mother, a dear friend of hers (10 years younger and only a touch of dementia so far, and my mother hasn’t recognized her in several years) came by the apartment for a visit. The nurse was taking Mom’s vitals, and she asked the same required question about being in Africa. The friend started to laugh, She reached out an took my mother’s hand and said, “Oh, wouldn’t that be fun, Mary? To go and see elephants and tigers in Africa?” My mom surprised us all by smiling and nodding and saying, “Let’s go.”
    And then, within a few minutes, she was buried in her old memories again. But for just a moment we saw that joyous connection between two old friends.

    • Oh WOW, Marylin. Who would have thought that question would bring so much joy to elders? I know how you must treasure those moments of clarity with your mom. God was good to give you that gift! Hugs.

  10. kappy stewart says:

    Hi Nancy,
    Thanks for the reminder that joy is everywhere if we keep our hearts open! I just wish we were closer to Blair’s 95 year old mother! Her spirit is really something and I know we would experience many times of joy with her. We always do when we are around her. Something to remember as I approach the next season of my life!

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