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Thursday, 12 September 2013 06:58

Almond Joy can be a real blessing in disguise

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It had been her grandmother's idea.

While Amanda had planned to work at Tim Hortons for the summer, taking doughnut orders and making sandwiches, or wearing a headset in the drive-thru window, her interview hadn’t gone well.
Instead of answering that she liked to work with people and was good at handling difficult situations with a variety of personalities, she’d said she was really only interested in the free Iced Capps at the end of shifts. It had been a joke, but she was the only who’d thought so.
Instead, Amanda had gotten a part-time summer job at a nursing home, where her grandmother had been a nurse for a thousand years or so.
“Can’t you do something so I can at least work in the kitchen?” Amanda had asked when she’d been assigned to housekeeping.
“Nobody starts in the kitchen,” her grandmother said. She’d also given Amanda a bunch of advice, including, “Never take anything the old ducks try to give you.”
On her first day, Amanda had spent the first hour being trained on the giant floor waxer that was so strong, and had such a will of its own, that is was like trying to walk a moose.
Next she was shown how to clean a resident’s room. And then she was then left to work alone for the next while.
At first she nervously hop-scotched from room to room, trying to get in and out with her trolley of dusters and disinfectants whenever she spotted a resident leaving to visit with family in the common area. Or when they went outside to push their walkers, or wheel their wheelchairs, through the garden walkway that extended around the property.
Amanda simply didn’t know what to say.
“Welcome to Tim Hortons, may I take your order?” had seemed so much easier.
So when Mrs. Schmidt in Room 13B, who had been sleeping when Amanda crept in and began to dust, suddenly said, “You look like you’ve had a long day, sweetie. Why don’t you sit down for a few minutes?” Amanda sat.
And for the next hour she listened to stories like none she’d ever heard.
Sure, she’d learned about the Second World War in Social Studies, but there were more recent wars, and that one seemed forever ago.
“My mother and I once shook Herr Hitler’s hand,” said Mrs. Schmidt. “That was before the war started. I always remember he was such a polite man that day. Later, though, we were running for our lives along with others.”
Amanda looked at Mrs. Schmidt’s shrunken form under the blanket and tried to imagine.
“Okay. Enough for today,” said the older woman. “Be sure to have an almond before you go.”
It was then that Amanda remembered her grandmother’s advice. But it was just an almond. She didn’t even like almonds, and it seemed disrespectful to say no to such a small offering.
Amanda took an almond from a dish on the bedside table, popped it in her mouth, then left to punch her time card.
 The next day, and every day after, though, Amanda punched her card before going into Mrs. Schmidt’s room. And every day she listened to stories. And every day she took an almond.
It wasn’t until nearly the end of summer, when Amanda would be going back to school, that she finally worked up her nerve and said, “I don’t really like almonds, you know. I come for the stories.”
Mrs. Schmidt smiled. “It’s okay, sweetie. I don’t like almonds, either. I just suck the honey coating off and give the nuts away.”

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