Peggy’s Fondest Valentine’s Day Memory:
As a nurse I spent more than my share of holidays working. Most businesses and all of health care don’t consider Valentine’s Day an official holiday, though, but a day like any other, so unless the date fell on a scheduled day off for me, I worked it.
My fondest memory of a working Valentine’s Day came when I was newly hired as the Head Nurse of an inpatient Alzheimer’s Unit. All of the patients had a form of the disease, from beginning stages to the end, and all were married. Their spouses came to spend most days they with them, but one particular day – my first Valentine’s Day as head nurse – has stayed with me all these years.
I’ll call the couple Eddie and Missy. Missy had severe Alzheimer’s. She wasn’t able to feed herself; personal care had become a staff job; she tended to wander if left unattended. She was 80. Her lovely husband Eddie, who’d been the town barber for over 60 years came every morning to feed her breakfast and every evening to feed her dinner. In between, he went to work. Six days a week, from 9 until 5. He was 86.
Part of coping with Alzheimer’s patients is keeping their surrounding environment calm and stress-free. You might be surprised to know that includes keeping decorations to a minimum because streamers, signs, etc., can cause confusion and stress to escalate, so we never really decorated the unit for holidays.
The one exception was Valentine’s Day. I felt there was nothing threatening or stress-producing about red hearts – the penultimate symbol of love – so I decided the staff could put up some celebratory, simple decorations denoting the day. I’d also thought it might be a good idea to treat the patients to some Valentine’s goodies. After speaking with our staff dietician, we devised a special midday meal – with desserts – for our folks and any spouses or loved ones who’d join us on this day. Luckily, Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday, so all of our folks had a loved one – or several – present.
Eddie took the day off because he wanted to spend all of it with his lifelong love. He arrived at nine and whisked Missy into the day room – the gathering room -. Befitting the day, he’d decked himself out in a bright pink shirt with a red bow tie. He looked dapper and charming and Missy’s face brightened the moment she saw him. Speech had dissipated for her, so any conversation with her was one sided: yours. In the day room, sitting beside her, Eddie talked non-stop until the noon celebration meal came.
One of the staff members thought to bring an iPad and I gave the okay for some subtle music to be played during the meal. Now, this staff member was in her 60’s, and Frank Sinatra had been one her idols growing up so she had a complete playlist from Ol’ Blue Eyes that she let go with.
All of a sudden, Missy stood, grabbed Eddie’s hand, and began a slow, romantic dance to Frank’s crooning. Everyone in the room watched as the couple slowly danced around the room, wrapped in each other’s arms. Missy’s smile was pure delight as Eddie even dipped her at the end of the song.
When it ended, staff, visitors, and patients all clapped. When the next tune came on, more couples who could manage it, joined in.
I had tears in my eyes as I watched these lovely people, afflicted with one of the most horrendous diseases to suffer from, simply find a space in their disease-damaged memories to remember a time – and dance – that brought them joy.
Eddie stayed until it was time for Missy to retire for the night. Before leaving, he grabbed my hand, kissed it and thanked me for giving him one last dance with his lady-love. You see, Eddie and Missy had been swing dance champions back in the day when the disease hadn’t robbed his beautiful wife of her life. Eddie told me he had a room filled with trophies at home from all their competition wins over the years. They were all the memories he had left of their of glory days as dancers.
Until today when he’d seen the Missy who’d been his partner in love, life and dance for over 60 years, shine through again.
Is it any wonder this isn’t my favorite Valentine’s Day celebration, ever?
BLURB of 3 Wishes:
Valentine’s Day is chocolatier Chloe San Valentino’s favorite day of the year. Not only is it the busiest day in her candy shop, Caramelle de Chloe, but it’s also her birthday. Chloe’s got a birthday wish list for the perfect man she pulls out every year: he’d fall in love with her in a heartbeat, he’d be someone who cares about people, and he’d have one blue eye and one green eye, just like her. So far, Chloe’s fantasy man hasn’t materialized, despite the matchmaking efforts of her big, close-knit Italian family. But this year for her big 3-0 birthday, she just might get her three wishes.
The man had been a hunk-a-doodle when he’d been in my shop. Right now he looked like sex on a candy stick. Tall, lithe, wide shouldered and narrow hipped in his scrubs. He was every fantasy I’d ever had about what my man would look like. He stood in the doorway of the waiting room and stared at me.
And I stared right back.
“I assume she’s your mother,” he said, hooking his thumb in the general direction behind him.
He grinned and my toes curled up at the tips.
“She’s a force to be reckoned with.”
I winced and replied, “She means well.”
Even to my ears it sounded more like a weak question than a declaration.
His grin spread and I swear my girlie parts quivered.
When he came toward me, eating up the floor with his long stride, a hot bead of awareness burst from somewhere deep, deep down inside me.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance author who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.
Her current titles, available now, include SKATER’S WALTZ and THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME, and FIRST IMPRESSIONS books 1 through 3 in her 6-book The MacQuire Women Series, published by The Wild Rose Press.
Peggy holds a master’s degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer’s Disease during her time running an Alzheimer’s in-patient care unit during the 1990s.
A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00T8E5LN0
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