Joane woke up with a groan. Her back was stiff. Still, she rolled out of bed and walked over to the Keurig. She couldn’t quite remember when she and her husband, Allen, had decided to put it in her bedroom, but today she was beyond thankful for it. She felt like a cup of coffee before facing her day would be the perfect start for her day.
The smell of french vanilla coffee filled the air as Joanne opened her bedroom window. She desired to hear the sounds of the morning birds, but found it difficult. Yet again, Allen’s friends could be heard from her room. They were an odd bunch. She heard laughing, loud voices, and stomping around.
Joanne grabbed her cup of freshly brewed coffee, sighed loudly, and went for the door. Allen truly was so lucky that he was so good to her or she just might up and leave him because of the frequent and noisy early morning company. The thought of Allen would never cease to bring a smile to Joanne's face. He was always inviting everyone in without judgment. It was the same way he had welcomed her.
Walking into the living area, Joanne did not immediately see Allen. She did, however, notice about four strangers walking around. Was it too much to ask that Allen at least maintain the same company? Joanne ignored her own annoyance and headed to the kitchen to make breakfast. That was where she found Allen, casually flipping pancakes with no concern for the strangers walking about their house.
Allen opened his arms wide, letting Joanne fall into them.
“Good morning Joanne!” He said enthusiastically.
“Allen,” she scolded, “who are these strangers?”
“They aren’t strangers Joanne,” replied Allen. “Those are my friends.”
Joanne let a disappointed frown cross her face.
“Don’t be cross Joanne,” said Allen. “I’ll bring breakfast to your room and you can read your book. Then, I will play my guitar for everyone, we will have lunch all together, and we will go for a walk. Just you and me.”
Joanne was still disheartened, but she loved to hear Allen play and a walk alone together did sound nice. Joanne let a small smile slide across her face before heading back into her room.
Once inside, Joanne opened her book to the first chapter. It wasn’t long until Allen brought in her breakfast. After eating, Joanne had lost her place and had to start her book again. She didn’t mind though. It was her first time reading it, but it was already a good one.
Later, Joanne joined with Allen’s friends for music. He played for a while and a few of his friends even sang along. Joanne wanted to, but didn’t because she was too shy. Afterwards, Allen’s friends began sharing stories. Joanne was still shy, but she couldn’t help herself from sharing the story of how she and Allen had met.
Allen then took Joanne aside and they went for a walk in the garden. Afterwards, they rejoined Allen’s friends for dinner. It wasn’t long before Joanne pulled Allen aside to let him know she was becoming tired. He opened his arms and let her hug him goodnight. She couldn’t imagine a better way to end her day.
She thought about Allen as she drifted to sleep.
The next day Joanne woke up to loud voices. Was someone screaming? Joanne blinked a few times and listened more closely. She didn’t hear any more screaming, but she did hear laughing. Allen’s friends must be over again.
Joanne walked to the Keurig and began making her cup of coffee. She inhaled deeply the scent of french vanilla. Then, she left her room to make breakfast for everyone. There, she found Allen.
“Allen,” she scolded. “There are strangers in this house!”
“Goodmorning, Joanne!” He replied, opening his arms for a hug.
Joanne hesitated, but couldn’t resist falling into them.
“Now Joanne,” he said. “You know those aren’t strangers. Those are my friends.”
Joanne began to grumble a reply, but Allen pulled her closer.
“Now don’t you worry Joanne,” he said. “You just go back to your room to read your book and I’ll bring you breakfast.”
Joanne did what he asked and returned to her room. Though she was still upset, she opened her book to chapter one and began reading until Allen brought her breakfast. Later, at lunchtime he invited her out into the main living area to join his friends for the meal and then songs.
Joanne wasn’t sure she was feeling up for songs, but went anyway. She did love Allen’s voice. After they had eaten and listened to a few of Allen’s songs, his friends began telling their stories. As Allen’s friends were telling stories Joanne began to feel better. She felt so much better that she even told the story of how she and Allen had met.
Before dinner, Allen took Joanne for their walk. Then they ate with his friends and she went to bed.
The day after, Joanne woke up to the smell of breakfast already being made. Allen must be in the kitchen again. She grew excited until she heard it: the sound of loud voices. Allen’s friends were over again. Joanne sighed and walked to her keurig. She let the smell of french vanilla melt away her frustrations.
Joanne met Allen in the kitchen, coffee cup in her hand and a smile on her face.
“Goodmorning Joanne!” he said, opening his arms for a hug.
Joanne carefully navigated giving Allen a hug without spilling her coffee.
“I love that you’re so kind,” said Joanne. “But really Allen? There are strangers in the house again!”
“Those aren’t strangers,” said Allen. “Those are my friends.”
Joanne laughed brightly at Allen’s kindness.
“You’re in a good mood today,” noted Allen. “Would you like to eat in your room or join me and my friends for breakfast?”
“I have a book I need to start reading,” said Joanne.
“I’ll bring your breakfast to your room then,” said Allen. “Just promise me you will join us for lunch. I’ll play some songs after.”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” said Joanne brightly.
Joanne opened her book to chapter one. She read. She ate breakfast. She read more. She sang songs. She told the story of how she and Allen had met. She went for a walk alone with Allen. She had dinner with her friends. Then, she went to bed.
Jackson loved the start of his work day. The direct care worker who had previously held this position had told him that the first hour of the day was a tell, indicating how the rest of the day would go. Jackson didn’t see it that way. Sure, it told him about what challenges he might face that day, but it was also a chance to change the day and make it better.
Jackson began making breakfast. It wouldn’t be long now until she would be up.
Not long after, a voice called out to him.
Jackson finished flipping a pancake before turning around to see Joanne, a smile on her face.
Jackson returned the warm smile, opening his arms for her to hug him.
As she hugged him she scolded him for bringing strangers into the house again. He told her not to worry, that they were his friends. Then she surprised him by sitting at the main table with her book. He watched her cautiously as she opened the book to chapter one.
Jackson gathered the residents to the table and began serving breakfast. He watched Joanne closely as he did. Nancy, another resident at the table, smiled at Joanne and she smiled back. This was real progress. After ensuring every resident had a plate in front of them, Jackson hurried to his office.
Jackson picked up his phone and quickly dialed Allison.
“How is she?” asked Allison.
“Doing very well,” said Jackson. “She ate breakfast with everyone today and you won’t believe it, but she’s singing again.”
“That’s wonderful,” said Allison. “Does she still think you’re my dad?”
“Yes,” said Jackson. “I hear the beautiful story of how they met every day.”
Jackson could hear tears in Allison’s voice as she thanked him. Jackson couldn’t help the crack in his own voice as he explained how rewarding it was working with Joanne.
“Do you think I should visit again?” asked Allison.
“Yes, of course,” said Jackson. “Your mother would love that. Just be patient and remember that she may not recognize you. Don’t be scared to play whatever role your mother puts you in. You might just learn something new about her that you never would have otherwise.”
“Can I come today?” Allison asked.
“Of course,” said Jackson. “Why don’t you come at five? You can join us for our walk and then have dinner with us.”
Allison thanked him many more times before hanging up. Jackson couldn’t help but feel a little pride for the work he had done. It had only been a few days since he had started working here. In that short time, he had changed Joanne’s outlook. By greeting Joanne’s every mood with kindness he had been able to make her days brighter. By filling the role of Allen, he had learned so much about her life and kept her from confused meltdowns.
Jackson felt pride at having repaired a mother and daughter’s relationship. Through daily talks with Joanne’s daughter he gave her the confidence and instruction she needed to feel comfortable visiting her mother again. Jackson knew there would still be bad days. He had even told Allison as much. Jackson had taught Allison they were nothing to fear and reassured her that he would be there to give Allison the tools she needed to turn Joanne’s bad days around.
Jackson knew that as a direct care worker, he was able to give people better days. He couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling job.