| Words Unspoken |

Dear Nurses, Aides, and Visitors

Even my friends of decades find it tough to see me this way, I can tell. But trust me — I haven’t changed


Dear Nurses, Aides, and Visitors,

HI,I’m Robin.

I’d like you to get to know me.

The real me.

Earlier this year, I had a full and busy schedule for a gal of 75. I loved to teach French and English to my college students, run errands around town, and chat and learn with friends.

My kids and grandchildren were — and still are — the love of my life. Although none of them lived nearby, my phone rang often with the kiddos filling me in about the latest spelling quiz or lost tooth. I was the kind of bubby who was just fun to schmooze with.

Folks up and down the block would see me walking my dog, Gili, more than a couple of times a day. That active terrier of mine just didn’t let me get old — she always kept me on my toes!

Sure, I had some small aches and complaints, all the usual pleasures of growing old, but like I always reminded myself: aging is better than the alternative, right? That’s a line my kids think I came up with, I say it so often.

My days and weeks cruised along smoothly between work, friends, and family.

All that changed when my brain tumor was found. Since that day, things haven’t been the same.

After a scary episode at home one Erev Shabbos, my neighbor called some paramedics to my house. They convinced me to get checked out at the ER, and I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. A few tests and one MRI later, they found it. Heaven knows how long it had been there, but I was scared: What kind of tumor was it? Could it be treated? My doctors told me we would only know more after removing the tumor. I was excited and hopeful when I heard it could be removed.

My son flew down to be at my side — you don’t let your mother go into brain surgery alone, do you? — and it felt so good to have him there. After exchanging some reassuring words and giving my son’s hand a tight squeeze, I was wheeled into surgery.

Sometime in the operating room, they tell me, I suffered a massive stroke.

And here I am now. In this bed. In this nursing home. Looking back at that ambulance ride, I was scared, but I never imagined this. Would you believe that I haven’t been home since?

My right side is still very weak, and I need help to do the most basic things.

I used to spend hours unwinding at night with a good novel, but now, even if I could hold the book, the words swim together, making it hard to focus. When my kids call, the sound of their voices brings tears to my eyes, and there’s so much I want to ask them and tell them, but I can barely summon the strength to nod my head.

Even if you just came in to take my blood pressure or mop the floor, please, say good morning, ask how I’m doing. It means a lot that you notice. It gets quiet in here, and I don’t mind the interruption.

The worst thing is when you act like I’m a piece of furniture. Don’t you see me watching you? I know that when you come in here, you’re unsure what to say sometimes, and I get it. Even my friends of decades find it tough to see me this way, I can tell. But trust me — I haven’t changed.

If I used to ask you how you spent your vacation, then tell me about it now. Since I never liked talking politics or sports, do me a favor and spare me the boredom! Pictures of your kids — or better yet, my kids! — is sure to earn you an appreciative smile.

You know you’ve really struck gold when you get me to laugh. Although I haven’t been able to talk much, I still laugh often. And when it comes to speaking, sometimes I surprise myself. I have been heard to say a few words at times, especially my favorite tefillos and names of friends, and when I can’t gather the strength for that, I’m happy to listen.

No matter what, just don’t give up on me, okay? When you believe in me, by being at my side and chatting with me like the good old days, it gives me strength to believe in myself and keep trying to heal. If you look hard, you’ll see me for the neighbor and friend you know and love.

You being here with me is the best medicine for me now, and with Hashem’s help, I’ll improve one step at a time.

With love and hope,



Please daven for the refuah sheleimah of Rivkah bas Michla

Written by Eliana Kraut, Robin’s daughter-in-law


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 887)

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