On Wednesday I drove a few people from the retirement village to a Spring Tea hosted by our church. It was such an adventure I don't even know where to begin.
One of the ladies told me she was just visiting her friend at the retirement centre. I believed her the whole time until I saw her later back up in the Frail Care Centre, eating lunch as a resident. Now I wonder about the other stories she told me (I did think it was strange that she didn't know where Johannesburg was, but now I think I understand).
Another man, who was wheelchair bound, didn't respond to much of anything. He kept falling over in his chair. On the way to the tea he suddenly perked up, said, "I can speak Xhosa," and began to rattle off something in Xhosa (for those of you who don't know, Xhosa is one of the languages with clicks in it). I asked him when he learned to speak Xhosa and he replied, "Huh? I don't speak Xhosa." Then he promptly fell over and went back into his own world.
One woman had a perpetual smile on her face and didn't respond to anything. "Do you want some tea, Auntie?" "Can I pour you a glass of water?" Nothing. No response. At least she looked happy.
Another woman didn't speak a word of English and I was trying desperately to keep up with her, given my limited Afrikaans.
Only one of these wonderful people was able to walk, so I got a crash course in loading wheelchair-bound folks into my van, collapsing wheelchairs (I should have studied mechanical engineering...) and fitting said wheelchairs into my van when it's already full of people.
When it was time to take them back to the retirement centre (all of these particular people stayed in the Frail Care Centre), I actually felt a bit sad. And while they made me smile with their quirkiness, I meant no disrespect. On the contrary, these people have my utmost respect. I can only imagine what they've lived through - world wars, economic sanctions, radical changes in government - and now the world is passing them by at breakneck speed.
If you ever get a chance, spend a few hours at a retirement centre. You will be blessed in ways that surprise you.