A letter written for an ornament exchange on December 7, 2016.
In giving this ornament to you, I hope to pass on the selfless act of kindness that was shared with me a few weeks ago and the story of its creator. This ornament was handmade by an acquaintance of mine named Charlie. Before you begin to picture a child making a craft in school, let me give you a frame of reference. Charlie is in his 80’s. He is tall with neatly combed thinning white hair, glasses, and uses a walker. I always like to picture the elderly when they were young and I picture Charlie as the handsome all-star football player in high school, who later went on to defend our country in the Vietnam War, came home afterwards and married his high school sweetheart, but it’s just a speculation. He is currently a resident in one of the nursing homes where I work. I was finishing up after a very long day and I wanted to check up on Charlie before I left because the nurses documented that he recently lost some weight, which is not always happy news for an elderly person. Charlie was sitting in his rocker winding yarn around a contraption that looked like a Yo-Yo. We chatted for a little bit. He said he was still cleaning his plate at meals, but wanted to lose a little weight so he stopped drinking so much hot chocolate. I felt like I was talking to a clean shaven Santa Claus with a New Year’s Resolution. I praised his efforts to eliminate empty calories and encouraged him to continue eating balanced meals including nutrient dense fruits, vegetables, and protein. He agreed and asked if I wanted what he was holding. I said, “Sure! What is it…” He proceeded to dismantle to Yo-Yo contraption and out popped this little puff-ball yarn ornament. It was quite a sight seeing such a masculine looking elderly man finding so much joy in giving out a puff-ball yarn Christmas ornament. I loved it. It was just what I needed. He made my week and I told him so. I later came to find that Charlie’s puff-ball yarn ornaments are all the rage in his nursing unit. There is a wreath on the door of the unit made entirely of puff-balls. I later noticed a resident donning two of them stylishly on her walker. He is basically a geriatric fashion trend setter.
All kidding aside, I left work that day thinking about Charlie and the other things I knew about him. As a more able bodied-resident, he often lends a hand folding towels and napkins for the staff. He is quiet and mostly keeps to himself, but you see him regularly make his way to the unit across the hall to sit with his wife, a lovely lady with perfectly permed salt and pepper hair who is always wears big brooch necklaces. She is currently on Hospice. She has dementia and sometimes sees things that aren’t there, but you can tell she appreciates his company and used to love the snacks he would bring her. Recently, she has been declining. I thought about how hard that must be, to not know if your wife, your best friend, will even know who you are when you visit or be able to hold a normal conversation; to think that it might be their last Christmas together. Still, Charlie has the best attitude. He continues to help in any way he can, and spread lots of love and joy in the form of little puff-ball ornaments. I feel honored to be a recipient of this gift, but knew the instant he handed it to me that I needed to pass on his love and his story here tonight. He showed me a little bit of Jesus that night, and reminded of what I truly have to be thankful for and celebrate this Christmas. I hope this little ornament can be a continual reminder to you as well.