Janet was one of the latter group. If Janet didn't like you, you knew it. Immediately. When Sis and I would arrive at Memory Care to visit with Dad, most days Janet would either ignore us, or tell us firmly, "I don't like you. Go away." Sometimes she would even push us along to make sure we got the message.
But, oh, if Janet liked you, she would smile on you, and I swear it's the smile of an angel.
Janet rarely has visitors, which is enough to tear at my heart. Between that, and wanting that lovely lady to smile at me, I made it my personal crusade to get Janet to like me.
There were many days when one look from Janet could crush my perky persistence, more than one day when she would shake her head and walk away from my attempts to engage her.
But slowly, oh, so slowly, I began to make headway. She began to tolerate having me around, and stopped telling me to go away. But still, the smiles were slow to come.
Because of Dad's sweet tooth, Sis and I always arrive at Memory Care with snacks. I began to share them with Janet and learned the secret to her heart: food. Nothing would bring Janet around faster than a cookie or a piece of cake.
We established a peace of sorts, and I dare say she started to like me, just a little.
Then one day, we arrived at Memory Care to find a very different Janet. She was in a wheelchair because she was unable to walk, she wasn't talking, would barely eat. She stared endlessly. I suspect it was a stroke or something similar, but don't know for sure. (There are Hippa laws that prevent staff from revealing medical information outside of family.)
It's been heartbreaking to see her like that.
But something changed on Friday. When we arrived, we heard that Janet had gotten out of her wheelchair earlier in the day to walk a little. She was eating better, too.
Later, as Sis and I sat in the dining room with Dad, I looked up to see Janet framed in the doorway, in her wheelchair, looking at me. I watched as she slowly wheeled herself closer and closer. She moved in as close as she could get to my chair. I waited, holding my breath, expecting to hear, "I don't like you. Go away."
But instead, she took my hand. And she held it tight. And she went to sleep.
It's amazing how simple gestures, from the heart, can make you feel on top of the world. She brought tears to my eyes.
Go out and hug somebody today. Or take their hand. Or blow them a kiss.
Life is so fragile, so short. Don't waste any of it.