The Esther Bunny Lives Here

The Esther Bunny Lives Here

From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul

The Esther Bunny Lives Here

Where there is a woman, there is magic.

Ntozake Shange

For nine years my wife and I managed a small eighteen-unit oceanfront condominium complex on Maui called Hoyochi Nikko. That time often felt like the Hawaiian version of Alex Haley’s Hotel. We lived in one of the units, and most of the other units were in a vacation rental program, which allowed the owners to rent their condos out by the night or the week when they weren’t personally using them. We enjoyed this arrangement. We had grown to like the fact that people on vacation generally arrive in a good mood, don’t stay long and are soon on their way with several rolls of film to help them relive their experience with every neighbor and relative. Often we were greeted with hugs and kisses from new guests sent by previous guests who had long ago faded from our memory. But this story is about the one who didn’t leave—the Esther Bunny.

In 1998, a young man who frequently surfed in front of our place asked if he could see one of the condos that had recently come up for sale. My wife, Micki, politely showed him the unit, wondering how his lifestyle would fit in with the vacationers who normally occupied the complex. After looking, he said, “I think my mother would like living here; I’ll bring her by after she heals from her hip surgery.”

When Micki passed along the story to me, we discussed how we might handle the situation if an older person in need of care became a permanent resident. All the scenarios we came up with sounded like they wouldn’t work. We soon dropped the subject and expected that anyone in that situation would also come to the same conclusion.

A few months went by, and the young man stopped by again and said his mother was ready to look at the property. The original unit had sold, but we knew of another that might be for sale. We made the arrangements, and a few days later he showed up with his mother. To my surprise, she didn’t appear to have recovered from her surgery—her son kept a chair in hand and several times during the showing he gently slid it under his mother. She seemed to quickly recharge her batteries while sitting and would rise for another five minutes, exclaiming, “This is beautiful!” That was our first introduction to Esther.

The rest of the day and most of the next we worried that Esther was going to be a part of our day-to-day routine. As fate would have it, she bought the condo and moved in by herself. I was terrified that this small, fragile lady wouldn’t be able to take care of herself or might get injured and I would be responsible. In truth, I was more worried about me than Esther.

She would never be known as a quick mover, but she healed, and our concerns about her faded. We found that, short of skydiving, she answered, “Count me in,” to anything we suggested.

Within a short time we found that we looked to Esther as a place to get our own emotional batteries charged. She started joining us for frequent movie nights at home, going to the theater, shopping and dining out. Soon she became my Esther Bunny. If anyone was a bother, it was probably me. I found myself stopping by frequently to say “Hi,” not because I was worried, but because I enjoyed her company. Her ability to keep a positive attitude, to smile and laugh easily, caused me to frequently try and analyze her, wanting to add Esther-like qualities to my own life. I noticed that vacationers and part-time residents were quick to include her in their activities, too, not because they felt sorry for her, but because she added so much to their lives.

A few years later, Esther’s other hip went bad. She found it difficult to get up from a chair and extremely painful to walk. She said, “At eighty-seven, I’m too old to go through another surgery.”

Micki told her, “We expect you to be around until you’re at least a hundred, and you might as well be able to walk without pain.” I told her that Hoyochi Nikko was getting a basketball team together and that she wouldn’t be able to be on the team unless she got the hip replaced. I think it was Micki’s logic that prevailed, but I enjoyed kibitzing with her over the other possible reasons she might want to endure the process.

Recovery wasn’t fast, but she made it and kept all of us in good spirits while she once again went through hip replacement.

Recently, Esther was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had her lymph nodes removed and was given the option of doing radiation or not receiving treatment. We asked people who had gone through the process, as well as those in the medical profession, what they recommended. We were told that cancer normally moves slowly in older people, and the radiation can be painful and stressful. With this knowledge in hand, she made the decision to proceed with the treatment.

Hoyochi Nikko isn’t known to have a basketball team, but word has spread of our resident Esther Bunny. I think Esther has decided that she will squeeze everything out of life that comes her way. I don’t see her as an older person, but as someone who has chosen to incorporate positive influences in her life and let the weight of negatives fall by the way side. That little old lady I feared would affect my life did.

Ron Lando-Brown

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