Submitted By: Suzanne Van Dam, Staff Writer
Sometimes going a little out of your way gets you where you most need to go.
Our home visiting staff member Joyce was on her way to Ontonagon to celebrate the 87th birthday of her friend Vivian, when she realized she’d be passing close to Vivian’s daughter-in-law. She thought that this dinner at Syl’s Café might just be a bit more festive if Vivian could be reunited with family members she rarely had the opportunity to visit, so she hit the blinker and made a little detour. Jean’s husband, Vivian’s son, was the person linking these two women together, but he had passed away more than six years ago. With neither woman able to drive any more, crossing paths was just not as easy as it had been. As luck would have it though, the daughter-in-law Jean was home and eager to come along for the birthday surprise.
As Vivian approached the car, at first she couldn’t see who was sitting in the back seat, and simply mentioned, “Oh, you have company.” Once she got inside, Joyce urged Vivian to turn around.
“The look on her face,” Joyce said, “I cried in the car when I saw that expression.” Vivian was clearly touched that Joyce went out of her way, and that she could have this chance to rekindle an old relationship and catch up on news with her daughter-in-law.
“The last time we saw each other was back in 2010, at my husband’s funeral,” Jean said. “We used to call each other on holidays, birthdays, all that, but….” She drifted off. We’ve all been there. As age and distance takes over and memory loss sets in, the phone calls become fewer and farther between.
But on this particular day, the family connection was made. “The whole time they just talked and talked,” Joyce said, “holding hands and catching up on all that had been happening. Vivian is about the same age as my parents, and I could just imagine them being so happy.”
Always a hard-working, independent woman, Vivian ran a farm in Mass City where she grew fruits and vegetables, and made cheese from the dairy cows she raised herself. She earned a little extra selling Avon products, but had her artistic side, too. Vivian was an accomplished musician and had travelled all the way to Tennessee where she’d found an agent to record her country western music. Jean clarified, adding, “Not only country western. She must’ve done some Finnish songs too because she used to play the accordion in a band with her husband and son—my husband. Back in the day they’d play in community halls and local bars. Working on the farm, she had a rough life, her ups and downs. But she did like her music.”
Vivian also loved getting out and about, going to the State Fair and four-wheeling in her younger days. More recently, she’s been joining in on all the Little Brothers outings, such as the color tour, Mother’s Day parties, and other gatherings.
Jean also attends some of our small group activities, having joined us as a Forever Friend shortly after her husband passed in 2010. “I was only 59, but legally blind, so I called Little Brothers to see if they could help,” she said. Fortunately, we could, and Jean interacts with us in a number of ways now, including getting monthly groceries, home visits from the German interns, home-delivered holiday meals, and the holiday dinner at a site or the occasional outing such as blueberry picking. “Vivian and I were supposed to meet up at the Twin Lakes Picnic last week,” Jean said, “but unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
Jean was able to attend and enjoy the picnic, but unfortunately Vivian is now in the hospital, stable, but still recovering. Living safely at home in the future may prove difficult. As with so many of our elderly friends, Vivian may soon have to grapple with some tough decisions about where to live.
Fortunately, Vivian won’t have to face those decisions alone. Joyce and other friends at Little Brothers will offer a shoulder to lean on. As friends pass away, we’ll be there to make those little detours that connect her with the friends and family who remain. As the oft-quoted Khalil Gibran says: In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
Little Brothers is honored to be able to rekindle old friendships and forge new ones. Thank you for being part of our family. With your dedicated support, your generosity allows us to provide many of those small, sweet pleasures that make life worth living.