When we moved to Michigan we knew only two people and both of them were almost 200 miles away. One day I happened to read in our local newspaper about the TimeBank and decided to join. A TimeBank is “a community of people who support each other. When you spend an hour for an individual or group, you earn one Time Dollar.” I figured it would be a great way to meet people. It didn’t turn out to be exactly what I expected; I envisioned making lifelong friends where we would share our days and common interests. While it looked different than I thought it was going to, it gave me one particularly lovely connection.
Here’s how it went down: Sue, an elder lawyer and a member of the TimeBank, saw my offer to visit people that are homebound. She has a working relationship with Tina and thought I would be a good match. Each time I visited Tina, Sue would pay me one hour.
Tina is 96 years young. She’s sharp as a tack and a great conversationalist. She’s a little hard of hearing and almost completely blind. She loves to talk about her kids and things she did when she was younger. She grew up in Michigan but has traveled all over the world. In fact, she tells me the best strawberries she’s ever eaten were in Switzerland. I’ve learned that her husband was a doctor and I’ve also learned that he wasn’t the nicest guy in the world. Being a doctor’s wife, she has known riches. Being a divorcee with three children, she has known lack. Even still, she might be the happiest person I have ever met. She tells me, “Life is so beautiful” every single time I meet with her. And she doesn’t like to say “goodbye”. Instead she says, “Ciao, Baby.”
When Sue didn’t have any more hours to pay me, I decided that I wouldn’t stop visiting Tina. In the five short months that I had known her, I had grown to enjoy our visits. Sure, like anything else, there are some days I just don’t feel like going. Sometimes I’m having a lousy or lazy day and would rather stay on the couch and watch TV or lounge around the house. But that’s so selfish. So I go anyway. And I promise that when I leave Tina, I’m in a much better mood. Works every time. Funny how doing something for someone else gets your mind off your own problems or worries or “pressing” schedules.
These are Tina’s sweet hands. These are the hands that raised three children. The hands that baked countless batches of cookies and crocheted untold amounts of scarves and hats. The hands that now have to do the “seeing” for her failing eyes. The hands that reach out and hold mine. While Tina doesn’t have the youthful beauty that society tells us we all must have, she’s so very beautiful. I’m so privileged to have met her and look forward to many more visits.