Saturday, July 30, 2011
An Unlikely Friend
I will be entering this piece in the Real Simple Magazine blog contest about surprising friendships.
Back in December of 2010, my housemate John’s 92 year old father, Joe Verno, suffered an abdominal aneurysm. Joe ended up going into the hospital and miraculously, survived the surgery with flying colors. John’s parents have lived in the same home since the 1950’s. Both were able to live together but one of them living alone was a safety issue. Therefore, his 89 year old mother, Ann, had to come live with two middle aged guys. Now I lovingly refer to Ann as my second Mom, but never in a million years would I dream that she would be our new roommate while Joe was recuperating in the hospital!
Mom Verno moved in soon after New Year’s Day. We arranged the guest bedroom for her to stay in. I made sure she had a night light by the bedside for her as she frequently got up in the middle of the night. I cleaned up and cleaned out my bathroom for her personal items as well as emptied out drawers for her clothes.
As John is a police officer, his schedule is all over the place. Since I am a 9 – 5 domestic relations officer, the burden of the getting Mom Verno onto a set schedule was left to me. I didn’t mind helping though as John was there for me when my own mother became sick and passed away two years prior.
After a week of settling into a schedule, Mom Verno began to relax. By the time I would get up for work, she would already be up, coffee made, asking me what I wanted for breakfast. I am more of a coffee, piece of toast guy, always on the run, so we kind of kept clashing on the idea of breakfast. She would ask me repeatedly “Why aren’t you hungry? You need to gain weight and eat!” Ah, such a mother!
I would make sure she had taken all of her daily pills. I showed her what John and I had made for lunch for her that day. Sometimes soup, sometimes sandwiches. She wasn’t picky. I would also leave out snacks and dessert for her. Around noontime, I would give a call to check up on here and then would call her on my way home. When I got home, I would prepare dinner for us. For the next couple months, I would actually sit at a table and eat dinner without a TV on! The shock! The craziness! I enjoyed my food and enjoyed the company.
Mom Verno and I formed an unlikely friendship. She asked me about my day, I asked about hers. “How was work today, Marc? Be careful driving. Lock your car door. Be careful walking to work, there are crazy people out there.” “How was your day Mom Verno? Who was on Oprah? Did you watch your soaps? Did you eat the brownies I left for you? Can you take out the chicken to defrost for dinner?” Mom Verno also gained back a sense of independence she had forgotten about.
Of course our conversations revolved around other things as well. She asked after John. She lamented she felt she couldn’t get “through to him” some days. I assured her that I would make sure he got whatever message she wanted me to pass on. Usually the info was along the lines of “Make sure he takes his vitamins.” or "Does he eat enough? He looks thin." I asked her about her childhood and growing up. She would talk to me about my Mom and how much she missed her. Ours was a relationship which went from necessity to one of friendship.
I never thought at age 40 that I would gain such a good friend in this 89 year old woman. I looked forward to dinner with her, as I knew it would be relaxing. Sometimes routine, but always relaxing. Afterwards we watched TV together, movies. She loved watching "Dancing with the Stars." She surprised me by watching some of the crazy action shows and movies that I like. We talked about world events and how things are different today than when she grew up.
When John’s father, Joe, came to live with us to finish his recuperation after the surgery, things understandably changed. All priorites focused on getting him better and rehabilitated while making the house more handicapable for him. We had nurses and therapists in and out at all hours of the day. Mom Verno doted lovingly on him. We still had dinners together, now with Dad Verno, but it was different. Her new found independence took a back seat to helping her husband of over 60 years get better. She watched him like a mother over a sick child. Part of me misses those dinners with my friend Ann. Every so often though, she and I talk about those couple months when she was an independent single woman again and we laugh.