I knock on the door and hear a shuffling of feet and I know a gracious lady of a bygone era is coming to let me in.
As the door opens I see a face well-lined with advanced age. Her makeup consists of soft powdery foundation and blush, her eye makeup is perfectly applied. She is the epitome of grace and southern charm.
She is fully dressed as every self-respecting woman of her time is. Earrings, necklace, rings and watch are all in place, they are a matched set. She’s wearing a matching pantsuit and everything is well chosen and well-fitted. Her white hair is beautifully coiffed and she looks ready to go out on the town.
As she greets me with a gracious smile and opens the door to allow me access, I know I’m in for the gentlest of fights to assist her in getting ready for bed.
“Hello Irene, how are you tonight?” I ask as I enter her room.
“I’m fine dear, what can I do for you?” She asks me that same question every evening and I wonder if she truly does forget my purpose or if it’s just her endless politeness, perhaps hoping to hear a different answer. I know I will give the same answer I do every evening, “I’m here to help you put on your night clothes so when you’re ready to go to bed you will be all ready”.
“Oh thank you dear, but I don’t need any help tonight”, she says as she sweetly refuses me, but I’m not put off.
“Well, how about if you do it all and I just wait till you are finished, that way if you need any help I’ll be right here.”
Once again she smiles and refuses me, “well, I think I can do it on my own”. Her smile is the same, it never wavers a bit. It must have taken her years to develop the ability of disagreeing in this, the politest of refusals.
“Oh, I’m sure you can”, I agree, “but they just want me here to assist if you should need any help while you’re changing”.
She starts to refuse me for the third time, but then, still smiling, she suddenly gives in and I’m surprised she gave in so quickly this night.
We go through the process of removing one earring after another, the necklace, her watch and one by one the various articles of clothing.
I go to her dresser and pull out her pajamas, one pair after another, holding them up as she considers and refuses one by one till she finally makes her choice.
I help her put them on, do up the buttons for her as most of the elderly have difficulty with buttons and she is no exception, even thought she insists she can do it all herself.
I am a bit surprised when her husband comes out of the bathroom and says, “Are you ready to go down to watch the movie?” Well, why didn't she tell me they were ‘going out’???
She says she’s not sure she can go out ‘looking like this’, but I assure her if she puts on her sweater it will look like a pair of lounging pants and quite acceptable. She agrees and I help her put on the sweater and say my goodbyes. As I close the door behind me I hear her softly say to her husband, “do you think she will notice if I change back into my clothes?”
I chuckle to myself and walk on to my next client. I never gave it another thought.
At the end of my shift, after all my senior clients are all washed up and changed ready for bed, I’m sitting in the lounge doing my report in my phone and the elevator opens up. Out comes the little lady and her husband. She has on her earrings, necklace, rings and watch and is fully dressed in the suit I had helped her out of just a couple of hours ago.
I know she will begin the process of removing her clothes one by one, taking off her earrings, necklace, rings and watch. She will set them on the same bedside table I set them on just a couple of hours ago.
Putting her on pajamas once again, she will be ready for bed and I wonder . . . . does she even remember doing this the first time?
And this is what makes my life as a PSW such an adventure.