Aloha is...hanging out with my gray-haired posse, eating ice cream and watching people ice skating to Christmas songs.
The posse - Rosa, Susan, Debbie, Laura and Zita.
The scene - Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.
It's the day after Christmas when I decide to take a few residents on a bus trip for an outing to the famous seaside hotel, once favored by Old Hollywood celebrities likes Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Mae West, Rita Hayworth, Ginger Rogers, and James Stewart, just to name a few, so that we could check out their Christmas decorations. So, I load up the residents, one wheelchair, two walkers and a family member onto our rickety bus and head south on the 15, trying to ignore the creaking sounds the bus makes as we bounce down the highway. I'm not gonna lie, I had to fight the urge to close my eyes as we drove over the Coronado Bridge, where I found myself asking, "Why did I do this?" But the looks of wonder on their faces as they turn their heads to peer out of the windows and into the blue bay says it all.
It's nice to go somewhere new and to do something different.
This is not a trip we would normally do at all. Coronado Island is definitely the farthest I've ever taken senior citizens on an outing. I'm not a fan of venturing too far away from home base, but I will try every once in a while. What people don't understand is the immense about of responsibility there is in doing so. All I kept thinking was, "We are so far away from home." I can take them on outings anywhere I think it's appropriate for them, but feeling safe is paramount to fun. If anything were to happen, of course I can call "911," but being alone without my staff around me in a time of emergency can feel scary and lonely.
"Safety, first. Fun, second," I'd always tell them. "If we're not feeling safe, we're not having fun." But, in times like this, I don't let my fears overshadow my mission in aloha. Going on adventures is fun for my residents. Seeing something they haven't seen for a very long time feels like new to them all over again. That's where the adventure lies.
Besides, it's the holidays and I thought we'd do something different. We can go for a drive, see some holiday decorations, see the ocean, eat some ice cream and people watch.
What I hadn't thought about in my aloha moment was the amount of people we'd be watching and watching out for. The holiday season brings a lot of people - tourists and locals alike - to the "Hotel Del." I hadn't thought about us having to wrestle through the crowds. I was dealt a heavy hand - managing the walk through the grounds without anyone falling and being reminded of how people are today. There are so many people who do not care about the elderly. They have forgotten about manners or any form of etiquette, never mind showing any compassion or concern for them, as I was quickly reminded of, as we made our way through the crowds.
Finally, Rosa, one of my faves, just shouts out, "Coming through!" She's a 91-year-old woman, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and she has no teeth. Not one! "I'm 91," she says, pushing her way through the crowd with her walker. "Sometimes you need a little help."
And just like that, people stopped in their tracks, smiled and stepped aside to witness this remarkable wonder of a woman and to help dear old "Brooklyn" out. (Brooklyn is the name I gave her when she started sweeping games at Bingo. She was on such a streak the other night that people almost packed up their gear and rolled out of the activity room with their walkers or wheelchairs in disgust. Good ol' Brooklyn.)
We each ordered what seemed to be the most expensive ice cream cone on the planet then sat at a restaurant patio, overlooking the ice skating rink. In my mind, I had double-dog dared the restaurant staff to kick us out, but, thankfully they didn't. So, at least I didn't have to lecture anyone in aloha today.
And, there we sat in the shade on an unusual warm, bright, sunny San Diego afternoon, enjoying our ice creams and our view. We had to lick our cones at double-time pace, trying to keep up with the ice cream melting down onto our hands, onto our sleeves and onto our laps. Rosa took a few huge licks before engulfing hers while Laura sits in wonder as to how she's going to finish her sweet treat before it melts into a puddle on her lap. (She's well known for not being the fastest eater.).
As we looked out in silence, we sat admiring people of all ages easily gliding on the ice rink that the hotel put up in its back yard. Young children in pink coats giggling and falling, college coeds with their arms wrapped tightly around each other, and moms and dads chasing after their children while still others shuffle this way and that.
I looked at their faces while they sat admiring the skaters. Some had with a faraway look in their eyes and some had a faint smile that read, "Oh, if only I were that young again." It's a look I've seen all too often on the faces of my gray-haired posse.
But, ultimately they were content. They were content in knowing that they've done all that. They have fond memories of roller rinks, ice skating rinks and everything in between. Even if their bodies don't move or feel like they used to, they have their memories. And, now they can watch and be good with that.
After we finished our ice cream cones, we shuffled our way past the rink and ended our day with a group picture by the sea.
It was a good day to do something new. It was a good day to do something different. And, it was a good day to do it together.
That makes it a good day.
Wherever you are, the next time you see the elderly trying to make his or her way through a crowd, stop, step aside and give them room to move. Offer them assistance, a smile and a simple "hello." I will bring them warmth like California sunshine.
Live, Love and Lead with Aloha.
*Please note I am not able to share pictures of my residents as it is against company policy.