91: Bloom Where You Are Planted

91: Bloom Where You Are Planted

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.

~Anthony J. D’Angelo

Rose had lived her entire life in the Midwest. Grew up, married her high school sweetheart, raised two sons, and was blessed with several grandchildren. She lived in the same house for over sixty years. She took pride in her vegetable gardens and many a neighbor envied her flowers. She painfully watched her husband slip from a strong, hardworking man to a frail, helpless one. And she wept as he was buried in the family plot by the old oak tree.

Years passed by ever so quickly. Her memory wasn’t as sharp as it used to be. She didn’t realize she had left the stove on again. She didn’t see the extra step going down to the basement. And then, before she knew it, her two sons were taking her on a tour of an assisted living facility. Yes, it was a beautiful place. So many nice people. So many nice activities to keep the residents busy. Nurses smiling as they met you in the hallway. And even someone to clean the apartments and help with the laundry. That was all fine and dandy! But Rose loved her home and that was that! If her sons liked this place so much, then they could move in.

A few weeks later, her suitcases were packed, some of her favorite furniture was loaded in a moving van and many of her antiques were divided among family. She turned around one last time, with tears in her eyes, as she said goodbye to her home. Despite her wonderful memories, she was moving into a “new” home. That assisted living place her sons liked so well. How could this be? How would she ever adjust?

This is when I entered Rose’s life. I fell in love with her the minute I met her. She looked exactly like my own grandmother, who had passed away several years earlier. I was the Activity Director at the assisted living facility that Rose was now going to call “home.” I could tell she wasn’t happy about the move. We saw each other several times that first week and somehow we started talking about our bucket lists. Truthfully, I was amazed that she even knew what a bucket list was. I shared with her that I hoped I could go up in a hotair balloon someday. Without any hesitation whatsoever, she told me she had always wanted to ride in an eighteen-wheeler. She had that twinkle in her eye that made me almost think she was teasing me. So I asked her if she really meant that.

“Why, yes,” she said. She had always wanted to get inside that big cab, roll down the highway, and have the ride of her life.

Going home that day, I couldn’t get her off my mind. How hard could it be to find a truck driver who would be willing to take a little old lady for a short drive around the block? And besides, it might take her mind off leaving her home. I made several calls and finally settled on a co-worker’s brother. We arranged to meet him in the parking lot of the truck stop across the river. I wanted so badly to help Rose accept her new home. Maybe this would help.

A couple of days before her ninety-third birthday, I told her I had a surprise for her. It would be an “early” birthday gift from me to her. I assured her that she was going to like it, grabbed her hand and walked her to my car. It wasn’t long before she glanced to the left and saw a huge coffeepot structure that said Sapp Brothers on it. She obviously recognized the local truck stop because she touched my arm and said, “Are we going to do what I think we’re going to do?” Tears had already filled her eyes.

“I think so, Rose!” I drove into the parking lot and there sat twenty or more eighteen-wheelers. I parked my car and we watched a young man climb out of his rig and walk toward us. I got out, opened Rose’s door, and made the introduction.

We walked over to the semi and the driver placed a set of steps up to the passenger side. We helped Rose up and into the cab and shut the door. Her grin covered her entire face! I grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots as she waved goodbye. Twenty minutes later, the eighteen-wheeler pulled back into the parking lot and the smile was still on her face. The driver came around to her side, but she had slid over to the driver’s seat and had the walkie-talkie in her hand. Talk about a Kodak moment!

It wasn’t just the ride she had wanted. Rose had so many questions to ask the driver: How much does it cost to fill this thing up? What do you do when you have a flat tire? How much does this semi weigh? Don’t you get lonely being on the road all the time? How much does a truck like this cost? After chatting for over an hour with the young man, it was time to go. She shook his hand, thanked him for taking the time to entertain an old lady, stood on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek.

On the way back, she looked at me, smiled, and said with a twinkle in her eye, “If I hadn’t moved to my new home, I would probably never have had the chance to cross this off my bucket list, would I?”

It was like a light bulb had just come on in her head. She saw that good things do happen in life, even when you have to leave something as special as your home. You either get bitter about the changes or you get better and adapt.

I’m so happy Rose chose “better.” She was able to accept the change with time, and be an inspiration to all of us in the process. No one can take away precious memories we have built in our homes throughout the years. They are tucked away safely in our hearts forever. Rose showed us how we can bloom where we are planted, even if it does happen late in life!

~Judi Hockabout-Martin

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