This section is from the book "Feeling Better? Amusements and Occupations for Convalescents", by Cornelia R. Trowbridge. Also available from Amazon: Feeling Better.
WHEN you are allowed to see a visitor, how shall you play the host, enthroned amid your pillows?
Have you a comfortable chair ready for your guest? It will be a good idea to have your nurse, or whoever is filling that role, experiment beforehand with locating one at the right distance from your bed-near enough for cordiality but no nearer than you like to have people draw up. It should be placed so that neither you nor your visitor will have to face a glare of sunlight or an unshaded lamp. Have it part of the understanding with your nurse that she will tactfully make the guest fall in with your plan. "I am going to put this chair right here for you," she can say as she brings him in or, "I have put this chair here so that you can talk easily together." If the movement of a rocking chair annoys you, it is not safe to expose anyone to the temptation to rock. If two visitors come at the same time, be sure to have them both seated on the same side of the bed. It will be easier for all of you.
What if the friend comes bearing flowers? Again the nurse's tact can come into play. She will have recognized the florist's box. Her strategy may be to bring the visitor in and to hover in the background until the gift is presented and she can carry it off to put it into water. Or she may disappear promptly and return bearing a vase, be nonchalant and say that she saw it would be needed. Let her open the package for you if you wish. It is a graceful gesture to let the giver see the flowers displayed.
Like the successful dinner hostess, spend a little thought beforehand on what to talk about. Of course, you may have the invalid's privilege to talk about yourself and your operation and your sufferings and discomforts and general hard luck and we all know the temptation to pour out troubles into a sympathetic ear. But a visit offers a chance to get away from yourself. Does your expected guest go to the new plays, read the new books, come in contact with people who are doing interesting things? Has he been off on travels, near or far? Tell him that good story you heard the other day. He can probably tell you another one. Will you not be repaid if you forbear to talk of yourself and let your visitor put you in touch again with the world beyond the sick room?
But what of the visitor who wants to talk only of himself? There are such, who may be none the less warm-hearted and well-meaning. They are the test of any hostess's skill. What would you do with this egoist at your dinner table? By swift and masterly strategy perhaps you can divert him to other themes. Try showing him something at which you have been busy or getting him to work out some of the puzzles in this book. Can you inquire about some common friend? Are there not past experiences to recall with him? It may warm two hearts at once. But don't wear yourself out with efforts to sidetrack him!
It is a help to any hostess to have definite means of entertainment at hand. Have ready a scrapbook or some sheets of unglazed paper of uniform size and ask your guests-and this may include the members of your family-to shut their eyes and draw pigs, tails and all, and autograph their drawings. You will soon have a very amusing album of "Blind Pigs." The illustrator of this book has drawn and autographed one to start your collection. If it is possible to have a clear shadow thrown on a sheet of paper against a wall, your nurse can be called in to draw a visitor's silhouette for you to cut out later and mount on paper of contrasting color. You will soon have a portrait gallery to display on your walls and your friends will be interested to guess the originals. You can have on your mantel a glass bottle or jar filled with beans and ask your guests to guess how many beans it holds. Keep a record of the guesses and when you have twenty-five or thirty listed, send some gay little prize, perhaps one you have made yourself, to the person nearest right.
Your visitors should not stay too long. Their intentions will be good but they will not know how far your strength has returned. They may be wise enough to ask the nurse beforehand how long to stay and then she will be responsible for telling them with tact and firmness when the time is up. If she is a very tactful person, she may stand by to see that they do not linger over farewells. Or you may say as she brings someone in, "How long am I allowed to keep a visitor today?" and it will be her responsibility to speed him on his way. Gentle hints are allowable. A rather transparent device often used is to discover that you want something from the nurse and ask the guest to find her. If you have copied a puzzle that interested you, you can try saying, "You must take this home and tell me the next time you come what answer you get." Sometimes to let simple truth be your utmost skill is wisest. Just say, "I'm so sorry but I find I tire very easily still. But do come again, won't you?" No real friend could be hurt by such frankness from an invalid.