12
Feb
20
Friends to the end
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Friends to the end Featured

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Life is better when you have a friend to navigate the pitfalls and windfalls.

That is the sentiment of Wilma Hartley who has had the same best friend since childhood.

Speaking from Carveth Care Centre in early February 2020, Wilma gently holds the hand of Doreen Haffie, her lifetime friend.

The two women have a strong bond, unbroken by time and circumstances. It seems serendipitous how they have grown-up together and are growing old together.

“We were so close when we were little and we’re close now,” says Wilma who lives in the retirement lodge that is connected to the long-term care home where Doreen resides. “It’s been nice to have a friendship like that. We’ve gone full circle.”

Wilma is 93 and still remembers the fun she had with Doreen when they were growing up almost next door to each other in Ebenezer. Doreen is 92 and will often respond to Wilma’s stories and questions, despite a mind afflicted by dementia.

“Your hands are cold,” Doreen says softly to Wilma, patting the hand resting on hers.

“But I have a warm heart,” Wilma responds kindly.

Clearly happy to be together, Wilma and Doreen have spent the last few weeks reminiscing about their teenage years through the reading of Doreen’s diaries, dated 1943 and 1944. The girls were 16 and 17 years old at the time they were written.

“They had such a close friendship. They’ve been friends since they were old enough to walk,” explains Activity Aide Tammy Kean who spent several hours reading the diaries to the women whose houses were connected by a beaten path due to the frequency of their visits.

“I was thrilled to do that. It was something really special,” says Tammy about the opportunity to read the diaries aloud. “Quite often you forget that seniors were young once, too.”

Tammy admits with a laugh, “I had to shut the doors so no one would overhear. They partied in an old Buick from Escott to Lansdowne to Ivy Lea. The odd time they even made it to Kingston.”


 

Once, due a late ferry, Wilma was going up her house stairs to go to bed while her father was coming down to complete the early morning barn chores. She remembers how she begged her father not to tell her mother.

“Once the memories start going, it starts triggering things,” says Wilma about the good clean fun described in the diaries such as the time Doreen was grounded in July until the end of August. Doreen wrote that she was so mad, she was going to eat a worm and die, and that they would be sorry they grounded her.

Wilma also recalls how she was at Doreen’s house and they were told not to touch a crock on a basement table.

“Of course, we went down and that was the first thing we looked for,” says Wilma with a mischievous grin. “We took a couple of swigs and it tasted pretty good. When we finally went back upstairs, we were crawling on all fours. Doreen crawled into the kitchen and fell asleep behind the stove. It turned out to be dandelion wine in the crock. When I got home, my mother was not impressed.”

Wilma laughs at the stories from her childhood and admits, “I loved hearing them.”

After the diaries end, Wilma went on to earn her teaching certificate and taught in the one-room schoolhouse located between her house and Doreen’s house. Doreen was the caretaker of the school.

When Doreen delivered mail around Ivy Lea, Wilma would join her when she wasn’t teaching.

“We had such a good time, we really did,” says Wilma. “She knew me then and still knows me now which is nice.”

The friendship has even helped Doreen transition to long-term care.

“She didn’t know anybody,” says Wilma about Doreen’s arrival to the nursing home. “I was able to help her adjust.”

Ironically, the women lost their husbands within the last two years.

“We’ve been through so much,” says Wilma. “It’s nice to be back together. Hopefully we’ll die together.”

Carveth Care Centre admires the strong bond between Wilma and Doreen. To learn more about living or working in our home, please call 613-382-4752.

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