A little house with big hearts

Special people ignite holiday spirit

Tuesday, 12/19/2017

Last week Paul and I had the privilege of sharing in a dinner at one of our community homes for intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals. One of about 100 LifePath  homes, we call this home “Aster” because it's located on Aster Road in Macungie, Pa.

On the way to Aster, I had to take route 22 - which if you live or work in and around the Lehigh Valley you know it's a pain in the "you-know-what." And the thought of playing bumper cars along the route 22 corridor during rush hour traffic at Christmastime after a long day at the office, was putting a serious dent in my holiday spirit. But I knew the residents of Aster – Don, Liza and Mark – were looking forward to spreading their holiday cheer, so I did my best to dash through the snow flurries to get there.

When I arrived, the smell of pot roast that was cooking all day on the crock pot was wafting through the air. The aroma immediately made me recall my own memories of Christmas when the world would stop and quiet for a day or two. When we would sit around the kitchen table and reminisce with the love of family and friends.

I found myself missing those quiet days.

Don, Liza and Mark were waiting at the door for us as Paul (LifePath CEO) and I entered their home. They greeted us with huge warm-and-friendly smiles and pats on the back (I can still feel the soft weight of their hands patting on my back).

“Do you like cats?” asked Liza.

“I love cats,” I lied and began petting the cat.

I heard the cat purr.

The house was decorated from top to bottom for the holidays. Red and green garland wrapped around the doorways, little figurines stood at attention on tabletops and shelves, and the Christmas tree – that was the center of attention – was decorated with colorful lights and cheery ornaments.

“Let’s make sure to get some pictures in front of the tree before you leave,” one of the staff members said.

Don proceeded to show me around his room pointing out his collection of umpteen Hess trucks that adorned the shelves running the circumference of the room. There must have been 25 trucks!

 There was also a picture on the wall of a young woman holding a baby. The picture was so faded that the figures in it seemed to bleed almost out of existence.  

Don kept pointing to the picture, then to himself, then back to the picture, over and over. I figured that the picture was him and his mother…a long time ago.

“Is that you and your mother?” I asked.

There was a huge smile and multiple head nods from Don.

Don is 84 years old.

Next I toured around Liza’s room. Liza doesn't have use of her legs and is in a wheelchair. Her room had a bright comforter on the bed and colorful curtains. Liza, Paul and I talked about her cat, how she feeds it every day and how she loves her cat so much. Liza continuously asked us if she was doing a good job with the cat.

“Yes,” we said each time.

Finally, it was off to Mark’s room. Mark cannot talk but was excited and tried to communicate something to us as he pointed to his bed. To me, Mark was just making sounds. I had no idea what he was trying to "say." I tried so hard to understand him, and pretended to do so – I was smiling, nodding my head and smiling some more.

Soon a staff member came to my rescue and said that Mark was going to be getting a new bed. Mark began to nod his head, point to his bed and smile in agreement. I was amazed at how the staff could discern exactly what he was saying.

 “Let’s eat,” said Liza.

And so we did. The pot roast was scrumptious – every bit as good as the aroma. We shared coffee, conversation and dessert. We relaxed. We laughed. Liza even put on a little show for us with her cat and her cat’s favorite toy.

We finished the night by taking some pictures with one another in the center of the living room around the Christmas tree. We all smiled, traded cameras, smiled some more then hugged and back-patted good bye.

That night, in the chaos of the crazy season the holiday spirit became alive in me, thanks to three very special people living in a non-descript little house in Macungie, Pa.

I took the long way home that night.

Thank you to all our LifePath friends for remembering our very special residents and consumers this year. Your generosity helped us create loving homes that are filled with compassionate care, dignity and respect and are a place where individuals of all abilities are accepted, valued and loved.

 by Annette Kaiser, Communications and Development Director LifePath akaiser@lifepath.org

Liza and her cat 

Mark and Paul

Staff and residents of Aster and Annette