Today was my first day as a volunteer at the old age home in Dilbeek. It was overwhelming, to say the least. My work isn’t very difficult, I really quite enjoy it. In the morning I help lay the table for lunch and then head over to the other block where I help feed people, clean, walk with them and talk to them. Today I met some people who really moved me to tears.
I met Greta. She laughs a lot. She laughs at the silliest of things and has to be called by her name a few times before she realizes someone is talking to her. Greta is extremely positive and says “Goddamit” a lot. She’s just sixty years old and has been at the home for over five years now. She had an accident that permanently injured her skull. Her laugh feels hollow and unwilling. The kind that would travel through corridors and hallways on silent nights.
Later during the day, I met Trudy. She is an extremely kind and elegant woman. She really can fall asleep at the drop of a hat but she’s always slightly confused. She is tall and lean and has a pixie cut that makes you realize how long her neck is. Trudy can speak french, dutch and English but is always getting confused between the three. Trudy thinks Belgium is really messed up, she thinks everything is different everywhere and she doesn’t quite get it. I think Trudy would really like India. Trudy likes to talk to people and look for things even though most times she can’t remember what she was looking for or what she was saying. She seems normal in a room full of people going insane. Trudy has Alzheimer’s. Most days Trudy can’t remember her own name.
The strangest person I met today was Sonya. She has long blonde hair and beautiful features that make her the most perfect woman. She wore a blue dress till her knees and white stockings to keep her warm in these harsh winters. She came for a a walk with me today and maintained the silence she always does. Sonya belongs to Theresa, she is a small doll that Theresa carries everywhere. Theresa doesn’t talk much except for when she says Sonya’s name as though she is trying to reach out to a plastic heart in the doll while she holds her close to her heart like a child.
Nobody knows the story behind Sonya and what she means to Theresa. Perhaps no one ever will.
Among these three was a woman with disfigured speech, she talked all day to seemingly no body but not a soul knew what she was saying. There was a ninety four year old with the brightest pink clips decorating her dull grey hair and pale face, I like to think it reflects the child inside her. The lady who I played ball with was so excited and eager to match my energy even though the lower half of her body was virtually paralyzed. I also met Carl, who likes to make jokes and is perhaps one of the smartest men around; with this book collections and stories of adventures. I love his spirit.
These are the people I live for.