In 2012 my grandfather passed away and left my Nan alone in a nursing home with no one to talk to but her cat. Being so far away from home I wished nothing more than for someone to go and hang out with her, play cards with her, give her shit about her purple hair, just as my poppy did.
I was living a very shallow and extremely hollow life. I felt myself surrounded by people with absolutely no substance, no connection and materialistic tendencies, but that is my industry.
I contacted City Mission Australia and learnt there is a program already in place for elderly people who have lost their partners, whose children don’t visit anymore, who wake up every day to the same shitty breakfast, the same stale smell of the nursing home, who could use a little brightness in their lives.
After a long process of police checks, personality questionnaires and research I was matched up with a woman from my local nursing home called Maurine.
Now, these people have no idea they are being put forward to be ‘buddied up’ this is all decided by the staff of City Mission and the nursing homes, so when I first visited Maurine, full of hope and good vibes that I was doing something to contribute to society, she was less than impressed some random stranger was in her tiny room being loud and asking her questions.
The first meeting didn’t go down too well and I left feeling forlorn. But for 3 weeks I kept going back, bearing chocolates and flowers I picked in the garden but she was NOT having a bar of me. On my third trip I decided to go through her CD collection and found one of my favorite CD’s ‘Eagles of Death Metal’ I chucked it in her old-school Sony cd player and as the first chords of ‘I only want you’ blared across the speakers she suddenly looked up at me with overwhelming joy in her eyes and started dancing with me.
Since that day Maurine has become my best friend, my family member, the absolute joy of my otherwise emotionally exhausting life (it takes a lot of energy feeling EVERYTHING ALL of the time).
Our conversations have so much substance, she is at the end of her life and has so many regrets, one major being other people dictating how she should feel. If it was not for this woman I never would have had the courage to sell everything I own and jump on a plane to Europe. I send her postcards and call her from every country I’m in to fill her in on my adventures to which she replies ‘You lucky basturd.’
Want to know what she taught me?
If you don’t runaway to new cities and travel on your own you will not find out who you truly are.
One day you will wake up in a nursing home either muttering ‘Where did my life go?’
Or exclaiming ‘What a fucking ride!’ I choose the latter.
One day all the people you tried to impress will disappear, your partner will pass away ten years before you and you will be lucky to make it through the day without pissing yourself.
You will sit in front of your mushed up food and your memories of the places you went, the meals you devoured and the people you love will be all you have so please make them worth it.
Oh, and stop fucking dieting.
Her dream was to move to Portugal. So here I am, living her truth.
How to get your very own Maureen?
It is really so simple. Once a week I walked into a nursing home and watched this woman’s face light up in absolute delight. TWO hours out of my ENTIRE week makes someone’s life so much more habitable, her last years on earth worth living.
We are 2 souls who never would have crossed paths in normal circumstances who now cannot imagine life without each other.
So please, if you are in Melbourne click the link below and adopt yourself a new best friend.
Or, google elderly programs in your city.
We all need a little Maureen in our lives.