Some months ago, I was walking past a building near my house when suddenly, I decided to enter. I had my toddler in a pram and my newborn in a carrier on my chest.
The lady at reception eyed me cautiously.
“Is this a nursing home?” I asked her.
Her eyes narrowed. “Yes” she replied, tentatively.
“Ok…” I struggled to find the right words. “Do you maybe have some older people here who don’t have visitors and want visitors and ah, maybe I could come and visit? I only live up the road”.
Her eyes widened. “You look like you’ve got your hands full already!” She replied incredulously. I explained that my grandmother had recently been in a nursing home and I know it can be lonely.
She called over another lady.
“Look at this lady”, she exclaimed. “She wants to volunteer!”
Volunteer? Bloody hell. I had hoped it would be a bit more casual than that. As in, I walk in on a whim and you scrounge up a sweet old lady who is having a quiet cup of tea and would like a conversation. Yeah?
Next I’m being handed a police check form. I’ve done it now. I have to follow through. They’ve given me a FORM!
So I headed home, guns blazing, and filled out the form…
And it sat there. And sat there. I had to provide some identification. Passport or birth certificate. You know the drill.
I couldn’t think where either was.
A few weeks later, I found my toddler tearing off the front page of the form for craft or something.
Well, that does it. In the bin it goes! It was salvageable, but I don’t think I wanted it to be.
I wanted an out. I had tried, after all. The intention was there. That was good enough.
But… walking to the post office recently, there it was. The building. Staring at me. No visible signs of life inside, but a pull to what I knew I had to do.
I swung the pram around and walked in.
Instantly the lady at the front desk remembered me, which frightened me a little. “We haven’t forgotten about you!” She said.
Another lady from the office appeared and expressed a similar sentiment.
So there I was, committed.
I filled out a form, took it home, and went back that afternoon with the i.d.
“That was quick!” She marvelled. But I knew. I knew if I didn’t do it now, I never would.
So I handed it in, and they told me it would take a few weeks perhaps.
They will contact me.
And I wait.
Maybe an elderly person is waiting too.
Maybe, like my blind grandmother, she is waiting for someone to read her The Secret Garden.
Maybe my grandmother never remembered the promise I made her. But I do. And I regret that she left this earth without me fulfilling it.
Or maybe, like my other grandmother, she is waiting for someone to have a seafood dinner with her. I thought I would have time for that. But I didn’t. I didn’t make time.
So here I am. Making myself accountable to this promise I have made.