Jul 13, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the nursing home...

Over the last few days, I've gotten a serious reality check. Miss Lillian is a tiny shell of her former self in a sterile bed. And yet, I have to get my humor wherever I can find it; if you can't laugh at the hard stuff what's left to do? Cry. And I'm not ready for that yet.

If you have to make the unfortunate decision to place your parent in a place like this, you could certainly do far worse. It's clean, smells really nice, and the staff are fun and very caring. What makes the visits easier for me are the residents...they are the stuff that screenplays are made of!

There's Bob, who has Alzheimer's. Bob is very mobile but completely non-verbal, and never leaves his room without his "Tennessee Titans" ball cap, sometimes he wears two, one right on top of the other. And Bob loves to just stop in and visit. We're never sure who he's going to bless with his presence, or how or why he chooses the recipient; but he always has the sweetest expression on his face. I get the sense that he's always about to say something nice.

And there's the woman in the purple sweater, whom I have nicknamed "Gorgeous". She has no idea who she is, what her name is, or why she's there; but she always rolls up, grasps my hand and sweetly waves to me. I tell her how pretty she is in her purple sweater and she blushes to the very roots of her hair, says "Oh go on!" and then rolls away. She is adorable!

There's also The Cookie Man. A very dapper gentleman who always has a packet of Honey Graham crackers in his hand. He's never without them and always makes a point of holding them up, waving them, to tell anyone who will listen: "They're number one with me!" I think he's told me that 15 times in 4 days. But he's always smiling, which makes me smile.

But my favorite is...The Topless Woman. Every time I turn around, she's sitting quietly in her wheelchair, smiling peacefully, folding her shirt...and naked from the waist up. Yes, that's right...boobs flapping in the breeze, and obviously happy to be that way. I've gotten very comfortable with the staff as well as the residents, so if they're busy I'll just go help her get back into her top. Ten minutes later it's off again. Yesterday while in the middle of folding her top, the phone rang at the nurses' station and she thought it was her phone. She had her sweater in one hand, and her imaginary phone up to her ear and was very frustrated that she couldn't hear the person on the other end. "Hello? Hello? You'll have to speak up, I can't hear you!" She sighed and hung up. "I guess they'll call back", she said, and then sweetly and serenely went back to neatly folding her top.

It may sound sad or depressing, but it really isn't. Whatever their reality, they are happy and cheerful and well cared for. We should all be so lucky.

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