My friend, Gayle had MS for 16 years. She spent the last 49 months at Concord Care in Garner. When her sister died in April 2017 I volunteered to drive her to the funeral in our church’s handicap van. That’s when our friendship became part of my everyday life.
I had been acquainted with Gayle’s family, her siblings and their spouses for over 40 years. Gayle was the member of the family I knew the least about but 4 years ago I saw her with her sister at Concord and struck up a conversation.
After her sister Phyllis died I began visiting Gayle and taking her out to her favorite restaurants in the handicap van. She could not feed herself so I always sat on her right side, her best side, to feed her and hold her beer up to her mouth. One time when it was just outrageously hot, I locked the keys in the van getting out. Gayle was already out of the van and we had to call a locksmith. Good grief!
We invited several of her friends to go with us on separate occasions and there were two CNA’s at Concord that were her favorites that she invited several times. Many times that first summer I found myself “wishing” I didn’t have to take the time to go out to eat and then I’d remind myself that Gayle MIGHT not be able to go in the van at some point and then I’d feel bad.
Last November was the last time we went out to eat and December 16, 2017 was the last time I picked her up in the van. I brought her to my house to see the Christmas decorations. From that point on I watched her health deteriorate and it was heartbreaking.
This was the woman who accepted her disease and her fate without complaint to me at any time. What grace and what courage it must have took! She was a great conversationalist and her boys would say, “We’ve still got the best part of Mom!” Her boys Shane and Chris lived 3-1/2 hours away but visited often and called just to say ‘I love you! many times a week.
I never once walked into her room without her noticing what I was wearing or telling me I was cute. I don’t care if I went there in my chore clothes! How could anyone always look on the bright side when their body wouldn’t even move anymore? She impressed me constantly. She also swore a lot and I reminded her many, many times that swearing really bothered me and then she would apologize. The lessons I learned from Gayle were extensive. She taught me to wrap green olives with bacon, spear them with a toothpick and put them under the broiler. They are delicious and I made them several times for her. She also loved hot dogs but they aren’t allowed at the Care Center because of the choking hazard. I grilled big all beef hot dogs and ate with her on several occasions and we both washed those hot dogs down with beer. Not long ago I took her some chicken tortilla soup and her comment was “this is pretty good soup for somebody who hates to cook!” Haha! I could go on and on with stories.
In 1960-61 Gayle and Phyllis played on the Ventura, IA state tournament basketball team – I jokingly refer to those previous years as when REAL girls basketball – made up of 6 players, not five, was being played. This picture hung in Gayle’s room at Concord. It’s a painting done by their coach’s wife of the 6 members of the team. This is such a family treasure! Are there any readers out there who played 6 girl basketball?
But my greatest story is about Rox. Many of you have wondered what happened to little Roxanne. I’m afraid if I keep writing on this post, the site will crash so I’m going out to do chores and I’ll finish in a separate post.
This is how I found Gayle every time I stopped by her room – with a smile.