Forgotten Women

I am thinking today of some forgotten women.  It is because of my ‘day’ job that I am thinking of these women, who at one time in history were good wives, daughters, sisters and friends to someone. Some of them have blazed the path for all of us, and became the first female doctors, lawyers and business owners.  I think also of the forgotten women that once lived glorious happy hour, dinner party lives and were the leaders of the wood- sided station wagon brigade and served as the heart of their families.

I think of a woman that lives in a ‘too do’ retirement community.  She was for 30 years the mistress of a ‘big name’ political figure.  She was also a doctor. Today she lives in fear of the outside world and lives with a mission of accumulating enough food for Armageddon.

I think of a woman, who took care of her terminally ill sister and then her aging parents, never taking a minute to complain or have a life of her own.  She now lives with dementia and a senile old dog. She is scared of death, strokes, fires and burglars.

I am thinking of a one-hundred and one year-old socialite who believes and will debate you on the subject for hours that America went to hell in a hand basket the minute we sent girls to college.

I think of a ninety-seven year old, southern belle who was the ‘woman’ behind her very successful man, raised two very successful children and still lives on her own within a retirement community.  She kicks my butt power walking every time.

I think of a woman who worked through the war and then supported her husband through school.  That man went on to become a very successful retailer.  He worked so hard to give his wife and children the world he worked himself into an early grave.  This woman now lives in one of the worst ‘facilities’ I have ever seen. [I did not say it was the cheapest, its not.]

I think of another woman with a drop-dead gorgeous home, glorious gardens and a closet full of designer clothing.  She worked as a volunteer, her entire life. She cannot remember her name.  Her husband, who is deaf, screams at her because she cannot remember how to run the washing machine, and she cowers in fear.  I suspect he has always been abusive.

I think of a mother with dementia living in a nursing home.  She whines to her daughter. I just do not understand why they always hit me.  The daughter questions the staff and she’s told it is the dementia.  The daughter purchases a nanny cam and she is then completely wracked with guilt when the images clearly show the aides had been hitting, actually torturing her mother.

In facilities all over America, there are amazing mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers.  They were placed in these facilities by well meaning family members.  In the beginning, the family visits often.  Then life gets in the way, the new normal sets in and the visits become more and more infrequent.  When they visit again and find Mom rocking in the corner and peeing in her shoes, they call me, or someone like me to ‘spend time’ with their loved one.

This ‘day’ job breaks my heart every day.  It also is such a blessing.  Whatever or wherever these women came from one thing is for certain, they all have their own   stories to tell.  Stories of scarlet fever outbreaks, slavery, world fairs, their first ride in an automobile, the first time they used a telephone or watched television.  They speak with wonder of the installation of plumbing and electric in their homes.  They talk of the summer hours they wandered around fields or lie in the grass daydreaming of their futures.

If you told me five years ago, I would be spending my days caring for elderly incontinent women with Alzheimer’s, dementia or some other ‘mental’ condition I surely would have laughed.

Now, I have realized my life long dream of being an author.  My ‘girlfriends’ may not remember my name or their own name for that matter but they remember I wrote a book.  They tell everyone within hearing distance “she wrote a book.”

I will never forget these special women, with whom I have shared my deepest secrets with and in return, they have shared their rich history with me.  A special place has been born in my heart for these forgotten ladies of yesterday who have taught me so very much about life and myself.

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  • Doreen McGettigan

    Thank you Patrick.

  • Patrick Knight

    This is a great piece.  Thank you.  You really remind me of the stories behind "everyday people"... that we actually see in our days journey, but don't stop to ask... don't stop to wonder.  "One Thousand Acres"... the waitress in a diner... with a best~seller story to tell.  As I read this piece a John Prine song came to my mind... and the lyrics... "So if you're walking down the street sometime... And spot some hollow, ancient eyes... Please don't pass 'em by and stare... As if you didn't care, say "Hello in there, Hello."  I love your ladies and the place you let them land in your life.