Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesdays with Monty

Every Tuesday for the past 2 years I spend my mornings at the local rest home where I had a brief job for 3 months (I enjoyed chatting with the residents more so I quit).

One of the youngest residents has muscular dystrophy. She's only 60, has no living family and is living in a rest home with elderly patients. It's not easy for her but there is no where else she can go. She's incredibly lonely and under stimulated. She hasn't received adequate physio and her wheelchair is falling to pieces. She asked me if Massage Therapy would help and I said "definitely!" so every Tuesday morning I go to massage the edema out of her feet. We also chat and I help her with other tasks that she can't do. I know how much she cherishes our visits.

Next I'd go visit a sweet old man by the name of Montegue Bate. Monty was one of my favourite residents at the rest home. When I first started at Bernadette, Monty heard my Canadian accent and it reminded him of the time he spent in Halifax with the Royal Navy. Monty was blind but he had these huge blue eyes that looked right through you. He had a photo of himself when he was a young man wearing a tuxedo, sitting on the top of his wardrobe. I would always tell him how handsome he was... but I think he already knew it. Monty loved women. He was so charming, it was incredible how the nurses fluttered around.

Monty had a sad life. He grew up in England with a tyrant of a father who wouldn't allow his mother to show any affection to him - thinking it would "soften the boy". According to Monty, his father beat him very badly attempting to make a man of him. It sounded like Monty was a real rebel and didn't often do what his father wanted which resulted in more beatings. When Monty went off into the Navy, he didn't have much respect for authority which of course resulted in multiple reprimands and eventually he was suspended. You can only imagine how his father reacted. So it's no wonder that he left England for life in New Zealand. He married a woman whom he admits he didn't love and although he never admitted it, I'm almost certain he was a flanderer. He had a large family (I think he told me he had 5 sons). He was also an alcoholic and I'm almost certain he was a tyrant like his own father was.

Every week I would sit with him as he told stories of his past, the same stories over and over. I suppose that's what happens when you are aging and coming closer to the end, your mind recalls all of the suppressed memories. The brain seems to "short circuit". Monty was also convinced that his doctor was trying to kill him. Once again, there was that distrust of authority.

But the reason I loved Monty was the way his face lit up as soon as I knocked on his door and he heard my voice. I'd knock and say, "Hello Monty" in my singsong voice and his baby blue eyes would sparkle and he'd say, "Come in darling. I've been waiting for you." Monty was blind but I was never invisible to him. He truly appreciated my visit. One of his daughter-in-laws would visit occasionally but his own sons never step foot in the rest home the entire 8 years he was there. Monty never spoke kindly of them often saying that they were waiting for him to die so they could have his money. I'd like to think that wasn't the case and that they were probably afraid and angry at him for being so hard on them.

Last year Monty kept talking about marrying me. I didn't have the heart to tell him that he was too old for me. Then I realized he was plotting to marry two of the carers in the rest home as well! Here I thought I was special! He was clearly going through a marriage phase (fear of dying alone?) which eventually passed. One day he announced that regretfully he couldn't marry me because I deserved to be with someone much younger who could offer me more. I told him I would always be his friend. Phew.

Monty had two loves. Women and dogs. Once the talk of marriage ceased, he started talking about his chocolate Labrador. His eyes lit up when he spoke about this dog. I brought my cat Mac into the rest home a few times to sit with Monty. Mac is so big that he feels heavy like a dog. Monty just LOVED it. I even brought Monty to Pet Sunday at church. You should have seen the smile on his face. As Monty got more and more frail, I bought him a stuffed cat which feels quite real, which he kept on his bed.

Last month Monty fell and broke his hip. The hip replacement went well but Monty didn't do well at the hospital. I went to visit him a few times but I couldn't get there every week. He hated the doctors and nurses, wasn't co-operating with them at all. He stopped eating so they had to put him on a drip and luckily I happened to be there when they put it in because I was the only person who could convince him to allow them to do it. The last time I went in to visit, Monty didn't perk up when he heard my voice. He was grouchy and even I couldn't make him happy. The nurse at the hospital said they were thinking of sending him back to the rest home because he was so unhappy and he needed to be back to his familiar surroundings.

Last week he went back to Bernadette but it was too late. Monty passed away on Saturday.

I will miss him. Monty was probably so misunderstood. He lacked love as a child and was unable to open his heart until he was nearing his death. I am sure he had a lot of regret and ultimately he died alone. Let this be a lesson to all of us. Make amends. Take every opportunity to let those closest to us know how much they mean. Recognize our faults and take every measure to change them. God Bless you Monty. Rest in Peace.

No comments: