A lady called to schedule a massage. After parking she called to tell me that her aunt came with her and the aunt is accompanied by her two grandchildren. So the aunt followed her, and the grandchildren followed the aunt. Okay. I looked out the door to see the posse. Nobody. She then emerged from the vehicle and stood by the step looking up at me and asking, on the phone, if they could come up with her. She was asking loud enough for the neighbours to hear. I indicated to her that I was disconnecting the call then said they can all come up. After the shoe removal ceremony they entered. And I had the strangest feeling.
They settled down and the massage began and the dear lady told me that she was not sure where she was coming so she brought company. Accepted. The peacefulness of the session was continuously interrupted by the niece who had to sit in all the chairs to see how they felt, and stroll the length of the house to see what’s where, and attempt to imitate my strokes on her aunt since she knows massage, and spell her whole vocabulary list in preparation for test. All these activities came with reprimands from her aunt and grandmother, but she had no time with them. Meanwhile, my brain was trying to process what it is that I was feeling.
This is the best I can articulate it…their entrance made me feel unclean. I tried to dismiss it, but it was there. I could feel it clinging and it was very uncomfortable. Mind you, I was in Gospel music mode and they all knew the song and sang lustily. I started praying. The grandmother sat where she could focus on me and that was her main occupation apart from fussing over her grands. I looked at her a few time and knew she was ‘reading’ me. When it was all over, she was the last one out the door. She stood there staring in my face and wishing God’s blessings on my life. I thanked her and wished her the same. With them gone I cleared my space and had a shower. The feeling still lingered. Some months ago a student had brought a bag of bay leaves for me which I have been using for tea…prefer that to adding it to my stew. Well I created a storm of smoke in ghee tin and flood the house with it.
My son said I was being unfair to him because hot air rises, but smoke falls to the ground, and since he is responsible for cleaning the house he would have to sweep up all the smoke. All was well after that. Maybe they left all of what they came with or just some of it, but it was very much present after they left and I thought a fumigation ceremony was worth a try. Thank God for the absence of smoke detectors.
So much for physically meeting family members. Two of my clients in two different Homes introduced a little more of their families this week. Albeit mentally. When I showed up to work with Mr. J he was eating cookies. I decided to give him a moment…it turned out to be 10 minutes. He has been on a leash when it comes to sweet for various health reasons, and only recently – in the name of the Season – has been allowed some latitude. So I let him savor the moment. He then wheeled himself to his room, locked the wheels, and hoisted himself onto his bed. I would have referred to him before as having had a stroke that affected his left side. The arm is still doing a 90 degree angle, but he is able to abduct it, which was not the case initially. It takes a while for him to focus his energies to then swing it out abruptly.
The sugar boost probably spurred his brain into conversation mode. I learnt that one morning his wife woke up, looked at him, and remarked that he should go see a Doctor. He did not look good. Not that it mattered to him. She had said many things before and he had found a way around them. His mind was set on preparing for work. There was some excitement in that because he would usually meet some of his workmates and they would drink a ‘half’ before the company vehicle picked them up at the usual stop. Then, after work they would consume a gallon of cast wine (that’s what it sounded like) and smoke some 5-piece before heading home. He recounted how eight of them drank thirteen bottles of White Oak after work one evening. I told him it must have been challenging for his wife to stand smiling at the door with welcoming arms. That did not matter. He gave her money. Enough money to deal with expenses and buy herself some distraction. He just wanted alcohol and sleep.
Some of us don’t run from our responsibilities, so she is still there. And while his pelvic region is all locked away in pampers, he is now ready (mentally at least) to receive all the attention she had to give that he hadn’t the time to receive. Given the limited privacy of his current environment, even if she wanted to it would be awkward. His treatment was on hold for a while due to her financial constraints, but urgent request to find myself over there came recently. Maybe he is bullying her into getting the attention he wants, and maybe my massaging him reduces the pressure for her to get physical. Maybe… Anyway, I heard stories of him flying off to cold places each year and how White women were always eager to spend money on him. But one night had to forego the advances of one. He had an ‘ah-ha moment’ after learning of someone who awoke in a bathtub of ice with a kidney missing, and he became suspicious that the White lady was fattening him for the kill. After only a few drinks, he walked away from his date that night.
I wanted to know if there is anything he felt is left undone. No. He did it all, almost. Good. Any goals for the New Year? Yes. He wants to be able to play with his son in the savannah, and go for a walk with his wife while holding her hand. Humans are extremely strange creatures. And while he awaits the fulfillment of his very simple wishes, he watches me like a hawk for any indication that something might be forming between us. He told me of a Nurse who has been quite an inspiration to him and helped him to regain his self-esteem after the stroke. By the way, it happened the same morning his wife made the Doctor visit suggestion. Life is funny. So he had wanted to die rather be paralyzed and the Nurse explained how Lazarus was in burial clothing in the grave and was given another chance, so there is no reason why Mr. J can’t bounce back if he seriously desired such. I told him that I’m her echo.
The other gentleman I worked with probably had cookies too. We met for the first time a few months ago and there was some alertness, but all the massages afterwards were done with him in drowsy mode. On this occasion he was bright-eyed and engaging. He told me that he was enjoying the massage and that he had no pains. Said he was never significantly sick, but recounted having a very painful arm when he was a much younger man. He could not lift the arm. Someone took him to a man named Abdul who was from India who spoke no English, but understood what was told to him in English. The friend told Abdul the history of the painful arm and Abdul massaged his arm then told him to raise it. He did. There was no pain. He was surprised and grateful and has not had any trouble with the arm since. I asked where was Abdul. He said Abdul was older than him back then, and being a few days from his 90th birth, he figured Abdul must have passed on already.
I told him he looked well for his age and he accredits that to having one wife who he took care of and she took care of him. I told him that I met her last year. She had become immobilized a few months before she passed on. His eyes twinkled, he was excited to talk about his wife. She was his everything. It always beautiful to hear this kind of conversation, but then again it makes me wonder if I’m missing something since I have no desire to have anyone be my everything. That would be an injustice to my dear fellow human. Anyway, Jesus made this lengthy marriage possible. He told me: Jesus Christ the Son of God lives in me. I told him I was very glad to hear that. Then I leaned forward a bit and looked him in the eyes and said: Hi Jesus. He’s somewhere in there looking out at me, enjoying my massages in the sly. It was good to meet this Jesus who secretly hangs out in old folk bodies and gets Himself a good pampering at the expense of their loved ones. I’m onto you.
And he told me of love. Love is everything, he said. I agreed. I love you, he said. I love you too, I said. Thanks for the massage. I like it. You are welcome. I like working with you…and Jesus. He was silent for a bit. Sat back in his chair. I was working on his legs. Each time I looked up at him, his lips said: I love you. There is only so much blushing I could do before my face starts hurting. But the essence of the exchange was genuine, so that when I said I loved him too I was not playing along, I could feel the continuity of that which was poured out to me, flowing through me back to him. It is easy to prefer heartfelt love from a client as against the discomfort of that which I could not see that kept crawling my skin. But neither situation is better. Each had its own actions, reaction, and lessons. May God grant us the humility to remain committed to our roles, whether personal or professions, as both the harsh and pleasant experiences they embody serve to pull or push us into the place where we need to be.