The life of a full time innkeeper can be a complicated one.
One has to know when to stand and chat because a guest needs to pour their heart out about their awful day/week/year. One has to know when to discreetly and quickly leave because really the guest wants to be alone and does not want to hear endless droning on. Sometimes I get it right, and sometimes…. not so much.
But after 15 years of hospitality, one learns to read the signs, the sighs, the body language. Sometimes, it’s just a “feeling” that makes me decide what to do in the moment. It’s the benefit of staying at a proper bed and breakfast rather than those other places. An innkeeper (usually) genuinely cares about the folks staying under their roof. Most of the time, guests have got a plan and want to rest, relax and get on with their day, or evening.
Sometimes though, there’s someone who really just needs a listening ear. Perhaps an ear that isn’t related to them, won’t tell anyone they know, and will care enough to give up some time to hear them out. After all, that’s why God gave us 2 ears and only 1 mouth, so that we’d spend twice as much listening as we do talking. (But that’s another blog post!).
This lady, let’s call her Betty Boop, was having a rough time taking care of her elderly mother from afar. Betty came to Tallahassee to take care of Mum’s affairs, but Mum doesn’t want Betty’s help. Actually, she needs Betty’s help, she just doesn’t want it. It’s a delicate tightrope walk with elderly parents. Many are aware they’re just not able to make good decisions any more, but hate losing their independence and feeling like a child, with their own child taking care of them. Some even fall victim to scoundrels who pretend to take care of the elderly, but in reality have their own nefarious agenda.
So Betty was having an emotional week. Trying to be patient with Mum, trying to organize some help to come into the home, dealing with legal issues for Mum and of course taking care of the basics like hygiene and meals. She needed someone to listen to her for a bit, what Englishwomen call “a cup of tea and a good chinwag”.
After she’d got it all off her chest the first night she arrived, the second day seemed to go a bit better, the third day even more so. Although I don’t know Mum, or where she lives in Tallahassee, I certainly felt like I’d got to know her, through Betty. And it sounds like Mum’s got a great daughter in Betty, even if she doesn’t acknowledge it the way Betty would like. I acknowledged Betty for her, because Betty needed someone, even a complete stranger of an innkeeper, to validate that she’s doing the right thing by taking care of her Mum from out of town.
And after Betty left, I found this message on our door. With all Betty’s going through, she still found time to say thank you, for me not doing much more than just listening to her. It touched my heart.
The life of a real innkeeper – still loving it…