I just got home from four days at "Audrey's House," Little Brothers' vacation house just west of Chicago.
A bit about LBFE's Summer Vacation Program. Some of our LBFE Elders are invited on vacation each summer; not all of them are invited - only those who are physically able and their coordinator thinks that they would enjoy the experience and be socially able are invited. Each week a Coordinator, a bus driver, a volunteer, and two nursing students take a group of 12 elders out Monday through Thursday. During the week, the coordinator plans activities. Since our week happened to be all women, Lili planned a "Girlfriend's Getaway" themed week, with activities like thrift store shopping, a walk through a garden, a spa day, and t-shirt painting.
Audrey's House is a beautiful and very large home in Batavia, IL - a far west suburb of Chicago. It has seven bedrooms, and (I think) eight bathrooms. It is a beautiful facility, it is so perfect for our Elders, and we really enjoyed it! It was so fun to hear the rooms filled with laughter and to see Elders enjoying the space! We told them to make themselves at home and they did! I loved hearing them exclaim "We're almost home!" after a day out. Many of our Elders had never been in a home so large - or if they had, it was as someone who cleaned it!
I was a little worried that this week was going to be kind of terrible, and I spent all weekend praying that God would give me unlimited patience and so much of His love to share - and He totally came through! We had a great group of ladies - I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single one of them, but still, waiting on twelve elderly ladies who need a lot of help with everyday activities and just trying to keep twelve people happy is exhausting. I had to be "on" from before 7am until after 10pm each day - happy, ready to help, social, and making sure no one needs anything! I never did get a chance to get past the table of contents of the magazine on the coffee table. And Jesus truly came through for me, as He always does - I enjoyed every moment, even though it was hard work and exhausting work. I fell into bed every night so exhausted, but somehow woke up 6 hours later ready for another day.
I loved getting to know these ladies, hearing a bit of their stories, and watching their relationships with each other blossom! I loved hearing their laughter and listening to their deep conversations. I loved asking "Can I get you a cup of coffee?" and helping them down the elevator.
On Wednesday, almost twenty additional LBFE Elders - who were unable to come on a 4 day vacation because of health reasons or time constraints, but still wanted to experience Audrey's House - were brought by volunteers for the day. We had lunch together and had a "Spa Day" complete with manicures and even massage therapists who did 15 minute chair massages for the elders!
This lady down below, with Traci, is Elia. Elia is 94 years old and never missed a beat. As I was loading luggage into the car on Thursday morning she came over with her walker and asked "Can I help bring some luggage out to the car?" No joke. She moved to the U.S. from Russia in 1981 to be a translator for a scientist and her granddaughter was an olympic gold medalist gymnast in the late 80s. Every once in a while she would walk over to me and say things like "Go sit down and rest - you are working too hard!" Oh, and she liked to sunbathe on the back porch each morning - in her underwear. :)
And this young lady is Lillian - our class clown. Always joking and making us laugh, there was never a dull moment when Lillian was in the room! She told me that she hadn't been so relaxed and had such fun in "at least seven years."
This is Anne - with an "e" like in Anne of Green Gables. She painted the most beautiful t-shirt, makes handmade cards, and speaks Spanish. Anne is so kind and thoughtful - and as our most mobile elders (she went for a 45 minute walk each morning and ran up the stairs faster than I could!) was always willing to help get drinks when my hands were full and I had to say "I'll be right back!" I'll never forget the shock I felt when she jumped out the back door of the bus to answer her cell phone while I was folding up walkers to put in the back of the bus on our way home from an outing!
This is Lillian (Yes, we had two Lillian's and a Lili on our trip!). She takes two creams in her coffee, has twelve children, loves wearing hats, and she insisted on buying me my favorite snacks when we went to Walmart.
Now that I'm back home and there's no one to wait on, I don't know what to do with myself!