by Colleen Sutherland
My friends advised me to find some volunteer work. It would take my mind off my troubles.
“How is volunteering going to help me find a job or a new husband? How is it going to pay for my insurance or pay the bills?”
“It probably won't, but it will give you something to think about while you are looking,” Agnes said. “Look for something close to your apartment so you won't use any money on gas. And you could use the exercise. You're getting a bit plump, dear. Volunteering is better than staying home moping, watching The View and hoping things will get better.”
Instead, I walked down to the Portland shore to watch fishermen and feed the seagulls. I wouldn't be living in that neighborhood much longer. The alimony checks wouldn't be enough to pay for even the cheapest apartment. I might have to leave Portland, Oregon forever and how I loved it.
On the way home, I passed Tendercare, a high end nursing home two blocks away from my condo. Volunteer work, I thought and right over the harbor with a great view. I walked in and asked about volunteering. The next day I was working in activities, with Marsha, the director, telling me what to do.
It wasn't much. All I had to do was push residents around in their wheelchairs and help set up chairs for programs, usually some school kids singing off key, but what can you expect? Sometimes I helped with jigsaw puzzles, read newspapers or books, or just listened to the same stories over and over.
When I was pushing patients, or residents as the staff said I should call them, I noticed a tall old man with a full head of gray hair talking to an old woman, his wife, I thought. Usually they were in the foyer on a love seat, but if the weather was nice, he took her hand and led her out to the flower garden overlooking a grassy slope leading down to the ocean. He reached into the bag he always had with him and pulled out a brush. He undid her long braid and brushed her hair in long strokes. Her face wrinkled up in a smile of pure delight.
“That's my girl,” he said. “That's my sweet girl.”