My best friend and I used to volunteer with "the old people" every Wednesday after school sporadically for about 2 years.
Yes, that's what we called them, the residents of Renaissance Park Nursing home.
The only reason I started volunteering there in the first place was because of this senior chick at my high school. Of course. Almost everything I did in high school was motivated by a crush or a hottie. She was the president of our volunteer service organization and I was very much smitten.
The thought of going to a nursing home scared me in the beginning. In fact it disgusted me. I had horrible memories of walking down the halls of low budget homes with crap smeared on the floor. With crying residents begging me for help and god knows what else. The last thing I wanted to do was return to that kind of environment. But the senior girl! I had to impress. I wanted to be around her as much as possible.
So I went. I followed her lead. Oh lord it smelled like hell.
She came every now and then but Sam and I mostly made solo trips. We stuck with these weekly Wednesday visits and I became more comfortable with each trip.
Sam and I made friends and gave our favorite residents nicknames. Of course, some were too old and sick to converse.
One special woman had her room decorated quite nicely with beautiful silver trinkets and frames. We dubbed her the queen of England because she was a huge fan. Every time we called her that name she lit up. "you really think I look like her? Oh, how wonderful, I think she's so statuesque and proper!"
Then there was "Mr. Republican"- we talked politics with him. He was so sharp! Sam and I adored him and his roommate, who we nicknamed "Elvis". If only I could remember why he got that nickname. Elvis and Mr. Republican were great guys. They had one of those singing bass-o-matics.
I got to know a man on the second floor who had trouble talking. I say "got to know" but I guess that's not really the case. He certainly tried to speak to me but I assume he had a stroke which left him unable to communicate. So I just sat next to him on the bench while we carried on a one sided conversation which made little sense. He always had a comb in his pocket and dandruff flakes all over. His hair was an oily mess and he wore a diaper. He got a huge hug every visit. I don't know much about that man but I later heard he was a preacher.
There was this other dude upstairs who was a mean son of a bitch. He was in a wheelchair and carried a stuffed yellow lab. He was always tearing everyone down, calling them old, crazy, and stupid. Cursing left and right. He just cracked me up!
I'll never forget the time when Ms Butterfly beckoned me, crying. She pulled my face down to her level and touched it. She touched my cheeks and my hair. Cradled it in her hands. I felt so bad for her and wished I could have eased her pain.
Elsie, poor Elsie. She was always asking for a pencil and screaming...crying. We were scared to give her one; worried what she would do with it.
One woman in particular, I don't remember her name but she had a room all to herself. She painted! She was such an arteest! We would check in on her and she would showcase her creations.
Sam and I confronted death volunteering there. We faced it head on and learned to deal with it.
Rather quickly, in fact.
On our third visit, Elvis had died.
Just like that.
We went upstairs that day excited to see the him, Mr. Republican, the Bass-o-matic.
His name plate was gone, peculiar. Had he been moved?
After learning of his death we went outside on the steps of the nursing home and cried.
I'll never forget it. Not ever.
Through the years, we saw more die and even more deteriorate. In particular, Mr. Republican. He went from sharp shooter to not knowing who we were or where he was.
One of my final visits to "the old people" was to visit a dying resident. I was the senior then; it happened during finals week. We knew she was on her way out thus visited her every day after our tests. I took a huge stuffed sunflower to adorn her bedside.
I was there, along with her family, Sam, and my special "senior". We watched her go.
Her family proselytized us afterwards. Odd. Maybe their way of grieving was to target a Jew and an atheist because lord did they ever.
These memories are special to me in a strange way.
I don't want to lose them. So I write. May their legacies live on!
| ||Posted 9/24/2012 12:34 PM - 413 Views - 32 eProps - 26 comments|
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