“We’re all just walking each other home.” ~ Ram Dass
TEA AT JUBILEE MANOR
by Linda Crosfield
Every afternoon at two-fifteen they come,
a procession of chairs and walkers,
or unaided in a slow and ponderous shuffle,
backs hunched against the unkindness of time,
to assemble in the great room for tea.
They enjoy this ritual —
the sturdy cups of Orange Pekoe,
cookies and squares that break up a day,
words exchanged, sometimes even heard,
by folk whose paths might not have crossed before.
It’s a slow dance, led by invisible partners.
It’s the last dance, and they’re saving it
for every afternoon at two-fifteen.
~ Posted by permission of the author, copyright © 2011, 2020 Linda Crosfield. All rights reserved.
Nursing homes have been in the news a lot lately. After all, it was a nursing home — the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington — that first warranted our serious concern about COVID-19’s community spread in the U.S. back in late February.
We learned that the elderly were the most vulnerable, and that many residents as well as caregivers had been lost or were fighting for their lives across the country.
When I stumbled upon this lovely poem by Canadian poet Linda Crosfield recently, I couldn’t help but view it through the lens of the pandemic. The cherished ritual of afternoon tea took on an added poignancy as I thought of those who no longer have the joy of a “last dance” to look forward to.
As it turns out, though, there was a bright spot, a glimmer of hope.
When I contacted Linda to ask for permission to share her poem, she provided a little backstory about it:
I wrote “Tea at Jubilee Manor” when my aunt was living there. It’s a nursing home in Nelson, BC. She died at 102 in 2012. Now my mother is in the same place and she’s turning 100 on June 3rd. Sadly, it won’t be quite the celebration we’d always planned. Can’t see her in person. No hugs. No flowers. Gifts frowned on. But we can send in one of those little airline-sized bottles of gin and some tonic and we will toast her over the fence on the day.
Now the poem is even more meaningful. Though I was sorry to hear Linda and her family won’t be able to celebrate this landmark birthday in person, I was so relieved that her mom is okay and would indeed be observing a rare milestone next week.
Would you like to meet Daisy? Here she is:
Have you ever seen such a beautiful face, such a wonderful smile? Oh, the people she’s met, the things and places she’s seen, the love she’s shared in 100 years! And she’s given us a poet!
Oh, look — it’s 2:15! In honor of Daisy’s birthday on Wednesday, we’ve set up a little afternoon tea. Please help yourself to some marble cake, dark chocolate pretzels, lemon, oat, and chocolate chip cookies, and of course, a warm cup of Orange Pekoe.
If not for Linda’s poem, our paths might never have crossed. Just as her heartening words suggest, we must follow the lead of our wise elders by rejoicing in simple pleasures and cherishing each moment as it comes, with gratitude that it’s been given.
There’s much to be said, especially in tough, unpredictable times, about treating each slow dance as your last.
While you nibble and sip, enjoy this mini gallery of seniors and Samantha Reynolds’s poem, as a way of honoring those we’ve lost, those we’ve found, and those we’ve yet to meet. Not to be forgotten, devalued, discounted or sacrificed, but revered, respected and treasured.