For three years to the day, I spent one or two days when I wasn't in the salon working at a nursing home. I had a little room with a shampoo bowl, dryer, station and a nice window that looked out to a couple of bird filled trees. It took about five minutes for me to fall in love with the residents of that home. For many, I was their only visitor each week. Sometimes because they had neglectful families, but more often than not, because they had simply outlived their friends and family. Some only knew what day of the week it was when I walked through the door.
One of my favorites was Ms. Ethel. She was only 70 and had suffered a long hard life of addiction. She was diabetic, arthritic and delightful.When she first came to us, she had very little hair. It had all broken off and was long in spots and gone in others. We started conditioning treatments and scalp massages and in no time she had a head full of beautiful curly hair. We did her hair different every Friday morning and she would giggle like a school girl because she felt so pretty. Sometimes, the physical therapist would come for Ms. Ethel during her visit to the beauty shop. This normally docile, joyful lady would turn around and let that PT know "I'll be down theah when I'm goot and ready! Ms. Dana is doing mah hair this monin' and Ah'm damn sho gonna be heah when she walks through that theah doe!" And she always was.
I got to work one Friday morning and Ms. Ethel was not sitting outside my door. I ran to her room expecting the worst but there she was laying in her bed. As I turned to step out of her room she called me. She apologized for missing her appointment but she just didn't feel up to getting out of bed. As I stepped out, I noticed a small tear run down her face. I went down to my room, got a couple of combs, some scalp oil, a hand mirror and a brush. When I got back to her room I asked if she would accept a house call. With the help of a nurse, we propped Ms. Ethel up and I massaged her scalp and brushed her hair into place. Though weak, she was delighted when I handed her the mirror so she could see her hair. I helped her lay back, and she asked if I had a favorite song. "Yes, Ms. Ethel would you like to hear it?"
"Vey much, yes, yes, I wut. 'Cause I love you."
Sitting there in the darkness of her room and holding her cool hand I sang to her.
"You are my sunshine.
My only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You'll never know Dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away."
Ms. Ethel fell asleep and I went to tend to Ms. Cliffie who was giving the nurses and other residents fits.
I never saw Ms. Ethel again.
I love you too, Ms. Ethel.