Dorothy, age 83, lived with her husband, Louis, 93, in their fifth-wheel mobile home in a trailer park in the California mountains. That was their world, 40 feet by 8 feet, except for the crank out living room, 12 feet wide.
For years they had traveled contentedly, following the nice weather, Canada to Mexico. About ten years ago, they parked in the Sierra Nevadas, and stayed put. They settled down.
Last month Louis fell and broke his hip. They brought him to Merced where surgeons put pins in his hip, and put him in a nursing home. Dorothy came with him, with just the clothes on her back. Her family brought her to the old folks home where I live and moved her in, as is, come as you are.
She misses Louis terribly, but can call when she wishes and can visit him when she can arrange transportation. She anticipates moving him here with her as soon as possible.
Without her permission, her grandchildren moved into the mobil home, and she feels pretty upset about that. She is removed from her husband, plunked down into an institution, and her home is usurped.
She is barely used to our routines here, has little time to consider the rules and routines. She is barely aware that there are assigned places in the dining room.
Then this morning she had a dream that her husband had died. She was scared and called him right away. He said he was all right, but has pneumonia. She came to breakfast pretty well shook up.
I could see she was distraught, and I know she likes hugs so I said, "I need a hug." We hugged.
Her assigned table was empty, the residents having gone already. I asked if she wanted to join me in Jim's empty chair. He never comes to breakfast, and besides is gone to be with family for holidays. She started to join me.
Then the waitress came and said, "Oh, no, I have to seat her in her own seat. I'd be in trouble otherwise." She led Dorothy, upset and distraught, to her empty table.
Rules is rules.
Well, not to me. I rolled over and joined Dorothy. They brought her breakfast, but she did not eat. She was content just having a friend to talk to. We talked for some time, and finally she took a bite or two out of duty... being diabetic, she needs regular meals. She was certainly not feeling hungry.
Made me wonder... are rules more important than compassion?