Respect means more than flowers

Judy Brandon

What is respect? We think of respect but don’t always apply it to every situation in life. Years ago, I learned a lasting lesson in respect.
When I was in high school, I went with a girlfriend many times to see her grandmother who lived in a local rest home. The first time I went with her, we arrived at about 11:30 in the morning.
What caught our attention was a little woman, sitting in the “parlor” all dressed up as if it were Sunday. With white gloves stretched across her arthritic crippled hands, she held a purse tightly in her lap.
She greeted everyone as they came in by saying: “I’m going out to lunch. My nephew is taking me. Today is my birthday!”
She had on a flowered dress and even wore a little hat with netting that hung down over her brow. How nice of her nephew to take her to lunch on her birthday, I thought.
When we got to my friend’s grandmother’s room, we mentioned the woman in the parlor. She told us her name was Clara and that she had no family except this nephew.
On our way out, I noticed that Clara was still sitting in the parlor. I stopped to comment on her dress and told her how nice she looked. I asked her if she had already gone and had come back early from lunch.
She replied: “Well, my nephew hasn’t come yet. But he will be here. He told me he would pick me up. Today is my birthday.”
With that, I walked out the door and wondered all the way home if he ever showed up.
The next month we went back. I saw Clara again in the hallway. She told me that she had just had a birthday. She said that her nephew was supposed to pick her up, but that he must have gotten busy. She said, “You know, he is very important.”
He had rescheduled and said he would be there the next Wednesday.
Next Wednesday came. Once again, we were back at the rest home. I walked in and there sat Clara. She was dressed up as before, white gloves and everything. I asked her how she was, and she answered: “I am waiting for my nephew. He should be here anytime how. You know I just had a birthday.”
I congratulated her once again and assured her that I knew her nephew would not be detained this time.
On our way out, my heart sank because there sat Clara, dressed up with white gloves, waiting for her nephew.
I talked with one of the nurses on duty. She said she had worked at this particular place for nine years, and for nine years, on her birthday, Clara had dressed, took her place in the front and waited each time for her nephew.
Each time he called and promised her he would come. The sad thing was he never came.
Each year, this “wheeler dealer” got so busy with meetings and appointments that he always missed his scheduled lunches with Clara.
As if to make up for it, within weeks after each birthday, he would send her a bouquet of flowers, with a promise to be there on her next birthday.
About two months later, we walked into the rest home again to visit. We observed several funeral bouquets in the parlor. There was one huge bouquet on the piano.
I inquired who had passed away. My nurse friend said Clara had died that week. She had no living relatives except the nephew who had forgotten her.
I commented about the huge bouquet, and the nurse replied: “That one is from Clara’s nephew.”
But for this birthday, it was a little too late.
Where was respect? Honor was absent. That’s contrary to what Paul wrote the Roman Christians. He said: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
“Too late” is a sad phrase that puts the lock on the gate to actions that could have been.
Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: