Pastoral apology

I love being a priest. I love people and I love hearing people’s stories. I can even cope with those ‘difficult’ people that we all come across from time to time. I know how to work round their more negative traits and try to turn them into something more positive. And on the whole I am a pretty cheerful person – glass half full and all that.

But – and there had to be a ‘but’ – there is one woman who really gets on my nerves. She is in the same Care Home as my dad and is always sitting next to him when I visit. She is a lonely woman with no family or friends and just the sort of person a priest ought to be able to offer comfort and a listening ear to. And if I was a visiting priest I would. Honest, I would.

But for some reason I find I am unable to be my normal happy sparkling self. You see, she talks non-stop in a whiny voice about herself and how lonely she is and how ill and how cold etc. Then she asks you what you are doing and saying and constantly interrupts. It is impossible to hold a conversation while she is in the room because of her interruptions and the fact that she wants to hold on to your hand. I don’t know what it is about her but she really, really makes me grit my teeth.

You know I read this back and I feel awful. She is exactly the kind of person I am called to love. And I would at any other time, really I would. But when it takes away my precious time with Dad I just can’t do it. And maybe it’s about guilt and the fact that I don’t visit him as often as I should.  So when I do visit I want our time together to be free and uninterrupted.

My sisters have the same problem with this lady, as do the staff. And when I hear on the news today that some Lord had complained about nurses in hospital being uncaring then I get a small glimpse into their world. So what we do is ask Dad to come with us to the visiting lounge or his bedroom, but sometimes he doesn’t want to move and often she will follow or complain loudly that she is being left alone.

So I guess that’s my confession to you, dear readers. My own penance is to pray for her and to try and be nicer to her next time but if you’ve got any other suggestions, feel free…

Btw, it has taken me an hour to pluck up the courage to post this and expose my spiteful nature to all of blogland!

10 thoughts on “Pastoral apology

  1. Could you come straight out and say to her “I’ve come to see my Dad and I want to spend time with him alone, but I will come to talk you specially before I leave so that you can have my undivided attention then.”?

    I’m as good as gold about my father’s guests: I bring a tea/coffee tray into the library, exchange a few polite nothings and leave them, but when I have visitors he generally needs to stay and play the host.

    Furthermore my nephews can none of them understand that I sometimes want time alone with my friends; they just assume that if I have company it would be enlivened by their contribution to the conversation. Sometimes we just want to talk girly stuff – cars and football rather than scandal and shopping.

  2. Oh Ruth! I know exactly what you mean, although sometimes it’s my dad who is the one in the foul mood with the whiny voice!

    I’ve also had, “Well he visits here, but he doesn’t really talk to anyone much”! Sugar! I came to see my dad! I’m not the Chaplain! Going in collar-less is no respite! They know who you are and what you do! Dad makes sure of that anyway, I’m sure.

    I think Lissa’s suggestion is spot on, but I guess it won’t be enough for the Needy Damsel!

    PS. Enjoy the new car! It’s a great feeling eh?

  3. Lissa, I’ve tried the first part of your suggestion – to no avail – but must confess to not offering to go back and specially see her after. Yes, I could do that. Families, eh?!

    Kenny, not had those comments to deal with. I think they are all too bewildered to remember that I sometimes have a collar on. And that includes the staff – never seen the same one twice.

    Not got the car yet. Still waiting in expection – a bit like Advent really.

  4. Hi Ruth have you tried getting the nurses onside and asking them to provide some distraction before you arrive? Or to have your dad in a different room so that he doesn’t feel he’s been pressurised into being moved. You don’t need to plan far in advance, just a call when you are on route… either using the hands free, or having of course stopped the car to use your mobile phone – as we all do. We sometimes have issues like this with our kids at school, which is not the same, but when our parents arrive to visit, sometimes only once or twice per term from the South of England, they want to be with their child not someone else’s no matter how charming… and this lady does not seem to be charming! I know they are busy too but hopefully they will realise how important your time with your Dad is and enjoy the box of chocs which accompanies the request.
    On another issue… no guilt! Your time with your Dad is precious and you want it to be quality time. It’s been a long time and I’m sure this has been going on for ages as I heard about this lady before… a very long time ago! You’ve been patient already!

  5. Go in pairs – take a friend or son and one of you distract the old girl, then swap over. Better still take a boring parishoner and that might be the last you hear of her – she’ll be begging not to have to talk to you.

    And I’m sure you do have boring parishoners, so you don’t need to confess up to that one.

  6. Sally, if indeed there were nurses (plural) and not just one girl from Poland in charge of a whole corridor full of dementia-ridden old folks then it wouldn’t be so bad. If I get that poor girl to take away troublesome lady who is really not doing anyone any harm (just my precious feelings) then who looks after the other wanderers?

  7. Agatha, I have been going with Son #2 for the past few visits but last time the old lady asked if she could hold his hand throughout the visit and he sat looking like a startled rabbit caught in headlights the whole time. He was ever so polite but I ended up worrying about him too!

    As for taking a boring parishioner… oh so tempting. And leave them there?

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