On my free time I volunteer at the local assisted living here in Hastings (NE). Typically, I spend my day in a different room each time and rotate throughout the year. This past week, I spent my time with a sweet elderly couple. I do not like to choose favorites, but if I was forced, these two would be at the top of my list.
The elderly woman is among the more classical generation. She never leaves her room without her hair properly curled and combed. Her teeth, although fake, she will never confess it. When lounging in her room, she is still dressed to perfection. If you didn’t know better, you would think she was the origin of ‘yes ma’am and yes sir’.
The elder man was obviously a past farmer. He spoke in a deep, but soft voice. There was never a time when he didn’t offer me food. He is tall and bulky, with a slight scruff underneath his chin. This man is the type who will speak to me in a selective tone in front of his wife; and in a different tone when we are alone. He has a hard exterior with a soft and sweet inside.
One morning, I was following the elderly woman around, helping her with her daily chores. One by one, I removed her curlers and smoothed her hair behind her ears. This particular morning, she had asked me to help her put her ‘face’ on, referring to her make up. As I opened up her make up case, I started removing the containers that looked the most used. Starting with the foundation, I peeled back the lid and gasped. There was nothing at all in the container. In fact, there was nothing in any of the containers. At that moment, the elder man had noticed my face of panic. He nodded at me to continue.
So here I was, brushing on what was supposed to be make-up to the elder’s face; first the foundation and then the blush. Here and there I would humor myself and correct a ‘mistake’ I had made. In reality, I was doing nothing different than what I would do with my Barbies as a child, pretending to dress them up. As I was finishing her make-up, she stared into the mirror and admired herself. It was as if she felt more as a ‘woman’ with make-up on.
The elderly man, when we were alone, explained to me how he dumped out all of her make-up. After assuring me it saved him money, he said he loved her without make up all along. When they were younger, she always thought she had to impress others, but he loved her to the core of his being. He continued to describe to me her pristine outer appearance, but her heart sealed the deal for their marriage.
At this moment, I realized the power behind make-up. When the elderly woman thought she was dolled up in make-up, it boosted her self-confidence, and allowed her to tackle the day with a strong demeanor. The elderly man kept this secret as a gift to himself. Although the elderly woman has aged, he always saw the same spirit. This is an unforgettable love.