Ode to Ella: living for another

Ella is approaching her 100th birthday and is as miserable as a bandicoot! She is to the point, opinionated, curt, and at times downright rude. Ella has been known to whack a person on the arm and banish them into shame for not tucking the corners of her sheets in tightly enough, with the proper lines and proper crease. Ella is obsessive about germs. If someone so much as puts their belongings down on her counter they will be lectured. Everything is wiped down multiple times with rubbing alcohol and a year’s supply of paper towel is used up in a week.

She is a strict vegetarian. She has vegetables chopped up and then frozen so that she can use them as necessary. Soups only. Ella is very religious and is sure to tell you what she thinks of those who are not. A bible lesson (complete with a direct line of questioning) will be delivered to those who visit.

And that’s not nearly the full story. Ella has a yappy little blasphemous Chihuahua that barks incessantly at visitors and is the most anxious, jittery, skittish beast you’ve ever laid eyes on. Not friendly at all. Nearly bit me a few times.

Quite a pair. The shoebox greetings lady has nothing on Ella.

And yet Ella is one of my favourite people.

Ella has a bad tremor. She can’t eat much food on her own and is very slight and frail. When she tries to eat she ends up getting less than half of the food in her mouth. Things that used to help decrease the tremor no longer work. And she’s given up her interest in things like special spoons that help negate the tremor.

Decades ago, Ella was a nurse and led a team in the hospital she worked in. She proudly wore a starched white nursing uniform, complete with nursing hat, and ensured everyone’s uniform was up to her standards. Not a hair out of place. She ran a tight ship. She was requested by her superiors for the most challenging and important assignments, and she delivered. Ella was a great nurse.

Her husband was an alcoholic and Ella had to manage that too. I can’t imagine what she went through with that. He passed away some time ago. I can’t imagine how she handled that either. She has lived through some very hard times.

And now Ella talks about wanting to die. She often tells me that she doesn’t see the point and that it is so frustrating living in her physical condition. She can hardly eat. She can’t be active. She can’t make friends because she can’t go out anymore. She always tells me that if it weren’t for her little sweetheart Chihuahua, Anna, that she would have chosen to move on years ago. Ella says when she goes she will be buried with Anna. She stays. For Anna.

So this one’s for you Ella. For continuing on, not for yourself, but for someone else. For Anna. And for being one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. For appreciating my visits every time and for wanting to teach me something important every visit. I learn a little gem from you each time. And for asking me to come back as often as I can. Thank you. I’m going to miss you when you’re gone Ella.

Chris Wilkinson is the owner/GM for Nurse Next Door Home Care Services. For questions or a free in-home caring consult call 250-748-4357, or email Cowichan@NurseNextDoor.com