When Life Gives You Bananas, Make Banana Bread

Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

When I met Caroline she was a very particular lady with impeccable taste for good clothing, accessories and jewelry.  She was always dressed to the nines and appeared to have everything in her apartment in perfect order.

Her organization was something to be desired as she always had her papers piled neatly, her closet tidy and her kitchen scrubbed down each night.

One afternoon after returning from a trip to the local grocery store, I visited Caroline to find her in a peculiar predicament.  She was asleep in her lounger still wearing her coat.  She had not unpacked her grocery bags and the bathroom was in shambles with towels strewn on the floor.  At the sound of my exiting her apartment she stirred from her slumber and called out to me.

Without hesitation I returned to her, half expecting her to report that she was ill.  To my surprise she reported that she was doing fine.  She had no recollection of her trip to the store or her recent issue in the bathroom. She did, however, remember that I had 3 small children.

Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

As I knelled down next to her she grabbed my hand,  “I have some old bananas for you” she said. When she noticed the confused look on my face she repeated herself and added “… for the children.  Take them to your kids.  I am sure they can use them.”

When I tried to refuse, letting her know that we had more than enough food at home, she insisted.  “Please take these…”  she said, pointing to the brown and spotted bananas in her fruit bowl on the table. “You need to feed your kids, I know you can use them.”

At this point I was becoming frustrated with the implication that I could not provide well enough for my family. I attempted to hold in my sense of accusation as I bagged the bananas and took them home.  Later that evening I noticed the first of many fruit flies that were emerging from the bananas.  Immediately they were thrown away and my spitefulness towards Caroline became a bitter taste in my mouth that I could not eliminate.

The next morning a fellow caregiver reported that Caroline had been up through most of the night and had attempted to move all of her living room furniture into her bathroom.  They were preparing to have her see a doctor with suspicion of a urinary tract infection.

I went to my office with this new-found information and hid behind my desk in shame and embarrassment.  For the past 18 hours I had been caught up in my own emotions, based purely on pride.  In my mind she was giving me her old bananas because she was too good for them.  Brown, spotted and bruised she must have felt that she deserved better and probably acted on that desire when buying new ones.  I was a working mother of 3 kids who clearly didn’t have the ability or wherewithal to feed my own children.  If it were not for the pity and expired food donated by others, how would they ever survive?

I had immediately jumped into a defensive mode, concluding that Caroline thought I was an unfit mother.  I had not taken the time to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together, provided to me the day before, and considered an alternative motive.

Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

As it turned out, Caroline was prone to U.T.I.’s and the presence of the infection caused her to become more forgetful, confused and lacking in judgment.  On one occasion Caroline was witnessed walking down the corridor of her apartment building, barefoot, with a laundry basket over her head.  Another time she had taken all of her food out of her refrigerator and boxed it up, only to place it in the hallway outside of her apartment door.

Just like the bitter taste of a lemon, I had made a sour and offensive conclusion.  If I had taken her fruit and eliminated my own smug presumptions, I may have been more open to consider the current situation and analyze it for her well-being.  Instead I was only worried about bruising my own ego.

Since that experience I have learned to look at  Caroline’s occasional out-of-character behavior and consider it from a new perspective.  My ability to set my ego to the side and look at all the possibilities has helped other caregivers identify delirium and confusion as a symptom of a physical illness.  This has lead to quicker treatment and faster recovery for Caroline and countless others we care for.

Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Instead of turning my nose up at old and expired food, worrying only about myself, I have learned to take her old bananas and make banana bread.  It will be there for her when she returns from the hospital.

 

 

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