I first saw her in baby pink dress. She looked just perfect at the backdrop of a pleasant and clear morning. The radiant yellow sun rays were beginning to settle down on the wet red mud. The blossomed flowers were swaying sideways at every stroke of the air and the birds were merrily chirping. As I entered the steel gate that made a shrieking noise each time it’s moved, I caught her attention. She stood still gazing and I witnessed a tint of hopefulness in her wrinkled eyes. Her complexion was so flawless that I was bewildered if it was her pink dress or her skin that was doing all the magic. Her hair appeared like white cotton candy that had no strand of black color.
I was here to celebrate my birthday and offer services as part of the ELFUN group. The first time I visited this place; I was almost certain that I would come back frequently. The reasons were such. I loved being part of this bunch of people who were so loving, beaming with laughter and optimistic. A couple of ladies were on the wheelchair whilst few had walking sticks. Some were reluctant to surrender to the age and convincingly pretending that they were still young! And why not, I was in the middle of a huge dining hall of a “Home for the aged” where each member believed that the age is just a number!!
This place had two living and dining sections, one for ladies and the other for gents. I was told by the in charge that there is only one gentleman while 26 were ladies. I bought a huge cake, soft buns and chocolates as part of my birthday celebrations. I wanted to share all these goodies with them during breakfast time. In the meantime, I was interacting with some of the ladies who were smiling all the time. My attention was only on the pink dressed lady who by now was sitting at the dining table just for two and writing something in her notepad. It was difficult to fix my attention elsewhere and I hurriedly excused myself and moved in her direction only to halt halfway. I saw an equally old man walking with a stick in her direction. He wore bright red and black colored checkered shirt and blue jeans. Leaving all my civilized mannerism, I pulled a chair right behind her so that I could eavesdrop.
He was as good looking as the lady. I quickly made an assumption that he was not an Indian as he was taller than an average Indian male, fairer and had blue eyes. He took few minutes to settle down with his walking stick on his left-hand side that was frequently falling down as there wasn’t any support to lean against on. She was obviously annoyed by this act and said “Give that stick to me at once, I’ll keep it here. You can’t do any work without my help”. He quietly surrendered and handed over that stick to the lady in charge now. And she beamed out “Andew, I’ve written a new poem for you again!”.
It was his turn to speak now “Ah! Yet another ordeal to go through; hope it’s not the same poem that you repeated several times in the last few days!”
The pink lady brushed her puzzled look away and stated “This one is brand new, just written here before you came in my love!”
And without his permission, she read the poem out for him. He clapped for her and bent over to take her hand in his and kissed on the back side of it. He took out a flower from his back side of the waist that was plucked from the garden outside and gave it to her. She blushed and accepted it. He whispered
He whispered “Happy 68th anniversary Nancy, my valentine for life”.
I assumed that it was her turn to give him a present and just then she took out a pink box and kept it on the table. He gently opened it only to remove his dentures!! She blurted “You are growing old baby! You left it on my table last night.” He quietly put them on to relish the breakfast that was soon to be served.
It was my turn to walk up to them and introduce myself. After the customary greetings, I called out everyone on the mike and informed that it was my birthday and I seek their blessings. I also announced that it was Nancy and Andrew’s wedding anniversary and clapped for them. As you guessed, I offered them to cut the cake which was later distributed amongst everyone along with the other goodies. I spent more than two hours with them serving food, cleaning their dishes and taking each one of them in their respective rooms. It was seemingly satisfying to spend my birthday serving at the home for the old. I was learning to have a different perspective at life. I was being thankful to the Almighty for everything HE showered upon me!
I met Sister Stella who was a nurse and was also present during our breakfast time in the dining section. She was in her late fifties and wore pale blue colored uniform that was too tight for her. It appeared small for her as I could see it hung right above her knees. She looked disturbed. Instead of searching for diplomatic words, I asked her straight “What’s the matter Sister? Is something bothering you?” As if she waited for me to ask this question, pat came her reply, “Oh dear! It’s nice to see young girls like you visit here and spend your time with the old and denied people. But you see both Andrew and Nancy have disorder with their memory. They have celebrated their anniversary several times in the last few months. Their children live in this city but never visit them. Young people like you come here once in a while and they experience their parenthood again. I keep Andrew’s dentures on Nancy’s table every night. If you meet them tomorrow again, then possibly they won’t remember you but Nancy will always remember to carry his dentures and likewise Andrew will never forget to bring her flowers!”
I fell short of words and just hugged Sister Stella and waved her goodbye! Tears were rolling down my cheeks. I helplessly searched for my scooty keys in the bag hung on my shoulder like a bus conductor and just then I saw a group of young girls and boys in a car that played loud and deafening music. They stopped for signal in front of the gate where I parked my Scooty. The guy was wishing and kissing the girl since he assumed that it’s a valentine day and public demonstration of so-called “love” was his right! I was angry, upset and saddened at once.
I experienced the purest form of love just a little while ago and that was all I know of it. One day of love or passion or whatever you may want to call it is not “Valentine”. It’s a lifetime of celebrating togetherness is my valentine. I thank Nancy and Andrew for teaching me such a valuable lesson at an early stage! It’s easy to fall in love but to remain in love with the same person needs your dedication and integrity. I visited this “Home for aged” several times after my birthday and one day I didn’t see the cupid couple at the dining chair. I was later told that both of them were buried few days ago and the last they met each other was when they were celebrating their anniversary and Valentine’s Day together. It was my last time to visit the home for the aged. I was getting married and moving to Delhi. Every time my birthday approaches, I remember Nancy and Andrew. That’s my Valentine Day reminder and I spend my time with my husband and kids….loving them all over again as if it’s the first time ever….
Disclaimer: This is my true story, took place at Hyderabad back in 2006.