Saturday, March 22, 2014
SLICE 22- PEOPLE LIKE JOYCE
"Hi George, tonight's special is the herb roasted chicken with scalloped potatoes and green beans. Looks pretty good. Is that what you want?"
"Grace, let me sit you on this side of the table, so you can hear Winnie with your good ear."
"Robert, you ready for some ice cream? Chocolate, right? You want caramel on it tonight?"
"Winnie, you want some orange juice? Special tonight is herb roasted chicken. You want a leg?"
"Dee, where are you going? If you're gone too long, I'm going to take that plate?"
"Hey, Gene, you gotta go back upstairs and work on your sermon? It's already done? Did you read that book I gave you? I tried fasting a couple of times, but I like my food too much. I have a friend who did it for four days, though, she's a big girl. She said she could have done another four. Not me, I like my food too much."
"Oatmeal raisin cookies? Let me see what I can find. I'll bet there might be one or two hiding back there."
"Hi Ralph, let me grab a root beer for you."
"Robert, the nurses haven't come for you yet? Let me call them and tell them to get down here, that you are waiting."
"Yeah, Louise, this whole meal is gluten free. Don't have to worry tonight."
"I know you don't like scalloped potatoes. You want a baked? With a little butter and sour cream?"
"Charles, you want some peach pie? It's still warm."
"You can't hear me, June? That's ok, I didn't say anything bad about you."
"Lee, you gotta get down here faster when I call. Mrs. Crowder's meal is waiting. She wants it hot."
She throws back her head and laughs when someone asks her if the band aid she is wearing is covering up a hickey. "Good Lord, no," she says. "Do you know how old I am? Do I look like I have time for hickeys?"
In between revolutions around the dining room, Joyce stops to talk to my mom, who has only been eating in this dining room for a couple of days. "Hi, Janet, how are you? No, you don't have to eat that chicken if you don't want it. Let me get you a menu from the other dining room."
We chat and I learn that Joyce is 53 years old. Has been a waitress for 30 years, 18 of those as the only waitress on the floor at a 128-seat truck stop. Has been at the assisted living center for 18 months. Does not take tips.
If anyone had told me two months ago that I would be sitting in the dining room of an assisted living center eating dinner with my mom, who is now using a wheel chair, they could have knocked me over with a feather. It's been a hard, hard, hard six weeks.
Even so, I grateful for the people that I have met along the way. Joyce knows every one of the 30 or so people that come into the dining room by name. Knows what they drink and what they like for dessert. Is incredibly kind. And caring. Gives my mom sugar cookies to take to her apartment when she says she doesn't want dessert because she might want something a little sweet later.
It's people like Joyce who are making this journey even a little bit bearable.