Jacob’s Chilies

Senior Living

Posted: June 8, 2017

The greatest part of my job is getting to experience moments of connection and kinship with the residents who live at Dayspring Villa. Often, those moments happen when you are not expecting them. Yesterday had been a long day, and I was ready to get out the door when I remembered the plants. A tray of vegetables that have been sitting outside since last week, unplanted. When was I going to find someone to plant those vegetables? This unmet responsibility felt like it was looming over me. What was I going to do about the plants?

I decided to throw some water on them and defer it for another day. But as I stood over them with our little green watering can, I spotted Jacob sitting outside. Jacob has lived here for more than a year. He often sits outside. He likes it, and he likes plants. He doesn’t like to go activities, he’s quiet, and sometimes other residents are put off by his accent and that English is his second language. I saw Jacob sitting in the sun and remembered all the plants that he keeps in his apartment, and that his children had told me he used to like to garden. I thought about one of the plants sitting unplanted – jalapeños, a chili pepper native to Jacob’s home country of Mexico.

I called Jacob over. “Jacob. I have a jalapeño plant. Where should I plant it, here or here?” I pointed to two of our raised gardening boxes. He answered immediately. “Hmm. I think here.” He led me over to one of the boxes and pointed out open spots. “We need a shovel.”

I ran back into my office for the gardening box key, worried that he may have decided he was not actually very interested in planting the peppers and might have gone. But when I got back outside, he was standing there by the gardening box, waiting. I brought him the jalapeño plant. “How many do you have?” he asked, grabbing the shovel eagerly from my hands and digging big holes into the soil.

“Three, I think?” I replied uncertainly as I tried separating them from each other. “Is this one or two?”

“Two” he replied, taking the plants and expertly untangling them. “See the roots?” He began placing the plants into the holes he had dug.

“You know a lot about gardening, “ I observed. “Did you use to garden?”

“Yes, my father was a farmer. He grew corn. He showed me everything – how to seed, how to plant. Everything.”

“My Dad was a farmer, too! He also grew corn.” I said, excited to have learned this similarity.

We talked about growing up on a farm as he gently patted the dirt onto the plants.

“Now we water them?” I asked, hefting my watering can.

“Yes, but wash my hands off.”

I laughed and poured the water over his soil-covered hands. He washed them off and then cupped his palms, catching the water and showering it carefully over each of the three plants.

“Now we wait,” I said.

“It will take a while.” He replied.

I think that the jalapeños are not the only thing that will take a while to grow. This time Jacob and I shared, bonding and connecting is simply the beginning of what I know will be a relationship founded on our common background of being raised on a farm. It’s opportunities like these – spending time with residents, getting to know them and finding that one thing that connects us that makes coming to work every day a joy.

Jacob will grow into a more active participant in our community, and I will grow into someone who can more often recognize and leap upon these opportunities for bonding and connection that disguise themselves as challenges. With a little warmth, time, and patient attention, I think that we will all grow a bountiful harvest.

By Stormie Foust, Administrative Coordinator for Dayspring Villa

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