I finally have a hospice patient again, after many many many months of the volunteer program being on pause. Every patient situation has been different over the time I’ve been involved with the program but this one is particularly tough, a woman greatly diminished by dementia and a recent stroke. She was a doctor, once upon a time. Now she cannot speak or interact, her body frozen and her eyes looking at something I cannot see. I go to a house to sit with her, while her adult son takes a break from caregiving. I have truly been at a loss for what to do during these hours, in her small dim sickbed area of the home. I was told she used to like nature shows so I play those on the always-on TV, occasionally chatting about what’s unfolding on screen. Last time, I read a chapter of The Wind in the Willows. No way to know what might she might find pleasant or at least restful, no way to know what kind of awareness she’s still capable of. Both times, though, her son came back at the end of the visit and said how happy his mom looked. Again, perhaps looking at something I couldn’t see — or experiencing something like relief for an uncomplicated time out. Either way, it was good to hear that he felt like he observed that.

I wish I could say that school volunteering was back on again as well, but that one feels like a long way off. School starts here in September (masks required for all) and their initial communications indicate that bringing in potentially germy parent volunteers is, understandably, a hell no for the foreseeable future.

I sure miss everything about helping out in the middle school library. I mean everything, from the kids to the sensory delight of the books themselves to the satisfying process of checking things in and out. I miss being connected to the school in a way that felt more involved, like it was a place I actually understood in some small way rather than a mysterious destination my kid never tells me about. (“So did anything interesting happen today?” “No.”)

So many things we all lost, and I know the smaller things pale in comparison to the loss of a paying job or a house or a life, but they are real losses all the same — compounded in shiteousness now by the fact that we could have them BACK, if only people would do the right goddamned thing.


5 Responses to “Give and take”

  1. Cara on August 23rd, 2021 6:25 pm

    I wonder if your public library needs volunteers? I noticed during a recent visit that mine has a fraction of the teen volunteers I usually see. Maybe parents putting the kibosh on extra exposure? It wouldn’t give you the connection to the school, but it would be similar and a connection to the community.

  2. ML on August 23rd, 2021 8:14 pm

    I felt that last sentence in my bones. And then I welled up with tears.

  3. Donna on August 24th, 2021 8:06 am

    And a heartfelt “AMEN” to that last sentence….same problem in Canada.

  4. Pat Birnie on August 24th, 2021 5:42 pm

    I am so impressed by the hospice work you do. It must be so difficult but I suspect she knows you are there, and that you care. The relief you give the family provides huge value. I also heartily agree with that last sentence- it’s the same here in Canada.

  5. Mary Clare on August 25th, 2021 6:14 am

    So much simmering resentment about this ongoing situation and people not doing their parts! In my darker moments, I imagine staking out the vaccine resisters and dart shooting them with it. Aaaaanyway I hope the library volunteering opportunity becomes available again.

    It must be a comfort to the hospice patients’ family to have someone with them. Through losing my mom and father-in-law to cancer this year my eyes were opened to how terrible the medical system is at dealing with dying people. There are very few resources for families. It sounds like a great program you’re participating in.

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