For some reason, unknown to myself, I thought of a resident I was lucky enough to meet at the nursing home. This wasn’t a very old man. He was maybe in his early 70’s. He had dementia and would often for no reason and with no warning just lay down on the floor and most often cry softly. The first time I saw this I immediately laid down next to him. Another CNA showed up out of nowhere with two pillows and a blanket and then backed off. Here we were. Two very large men laying down on the floor in the middle of the hallway in a very active nursing home… in the middle of the day.
Don’t ask me why I did this. This was in no training or seminar yet it was my immediate and most natural response. I’ve seen others do this. First responders like EMT’s, firefighters, police. I think there are several driving factors. For me it’s the eyes. Everything is raw and real in the eyes. Whether it be panic, fear, anger, love, frustration, encouragement or hopelessness, it can be seen in the eyes. Even dementia cannot take that away. And it is not the look in the other persons eyes that is important. It is the look in my eyes. They have to see that they are safe. They have to SEE that the words they are hearing have truth. They have to know that no matter where they are they can look you in the eye and know it’ll be alright. The only way I know to accomplish that is to meet them where they’re at.
When I was a little boy jumping off the stool
I would do anything just to get a smile out of you
Then I was a soldier floating on the clouds
jumping out of airplanes just to make you proud
I never made you happy and I never knew your pain
but I would give anything to try to make you smile again
Now I am an old man there’s nothing left to do
I hope I can make you smile the next time I see you
In a conversation with my son one word brought a flood of memories rushing back. the word was homeless. I immediately thought of my mother and a ride we took. We pulled up to a busy intersection in Macon where a man was standing with a sign. One word. Homeless. Mom dug in her purse and handed me a five dollar bill to give to the man which I did. I couldn’t speak. This was completely out of character for my mother. When I regained my senses I asked her and she told me the following.
” I had a dream last night that frightened me to my core. I dreamed that I was in my 20’s and was lost in Atlanta. No one would help me. I had no money. I had no food. I had no car and most frightening of all was I had no place to go. There was no destination I was just lost begging for help and no one heard me. I know that man will probably go spend that money on liquor but that is not my concern. I realize I have not been as good a Christian as I could have been. He may be hungry. Eddie that was more than a dream I had. I think I’m being prepped. I think Jesus put that man there to see if I was listening.”
Mom died a month later.
I don’t write as often as I should. I just don’t. It seems I have fallen into the social media cycles of venting and expression and empathy and sympathy and even apathy because of saturation of opinions from all sides. But this is different.This is different because this is one of those special moments when I HAVE to write not because I need to make a social statement but because I just need to say ” I hear you.”
Standing on my porch this morning after daybreak I was smoking one of my two daily cigarettes. This is my favorite time of day. I caught some movement over my left shoulder and saw a small spike buck I’ve named Red, because of his color, grazing about twenty yards away. Apparently I was down wind because here I was smoking a cigarette and he walked right by me. What was also odd was he was not alone. I see him everyday but he has been alone since he left the herd which still comes through. He had a small female with him.
They were on an open field just about 50 yards away and there was a stand of about three pine trees between us. I was waiting for them to come into view. Instead a red tail hawk flew out heading for the sky. I know those deer had to have spooked that hawk but I laughed and thought ” Ok Tata’s shape shifting.”
I went on about my morning cleaning and was doing laundry when I was stopped in my tracks. I heard the most beautiful sound in the world and just lay over the top of the washing machine. I felt my father inside my chest. I felt the same explosion of emotion that I used to feel whenever I held him with his little white head pressed into my chest. I love him no less today than I ever did. I miss him more every day. If you are still reading this I’m impressed because I did not write this for you.The TV was on while I was cleaning and a movie was playing in the background. The movie was ” Alive ” and at the end of the movie was the sound that stopped me. Daddy’s favorite. So if you are still reading then you most definitely should listen to this song all the way through. It will probably be the most rewarding part of this experience. Or not. I didn’t write this for you anyway. I wrote this just to say, ‘I hear you Tata! Have a great day!”
I worked at the nursing home this weekend. I have taken some time off for various reasons and have genuinely missed being around those beautiful people. I’ve missed the staff as much as the residents.
I’ve written before about the married couples that reside here and I feel we are fortunate that we have the opportunity to be part of their lives. There’s something special about sitting with them. Once the door shuts you are sitting in their living room. There are various pieces of artwork, recliners, little refrigerators and pictures. Lots of pictures.
They talk about their relationship with gentle banter playing off each other. We have had couples that have been married for as long as 76 years. When one of the spouses begin to decline you will witness a part of the human experience and journey that few people are blessed to see or be a part of.
The remaining spouse, be it male or female, becomes the caregiver. They want to feed their mate.. Take them the bathroom. Wipe their brow and give them comfort rarely leaving their side. When their mate dies the remaining survivor usually must find new purpose. They often maintain the same routine that they shared with their mate. Whether it was playing bingo or a glass of wine in the evening or just sitting outside at the same time everyday.
So Saturday as I was pulling in to work I saw one of the residents outside. She had recently lost her husband. Every morning she and her husband would sit outside in the sun. This morning she was sitting outside in the sun with her hands in her lap, her head slightly tilted back, sunglasses on and just a faint smile on her face.
I don’t know what she was thinking but I know I thought ” she looks like a bird on a wire…” Some humans mate for life.
Entry and exit are both the same
though we call them each by a different name
Through birth we enter with wrinkled hands and face
longing for the comfort of our mothers embrace
blinded by light gasping for breath
we are laid gently upon mothers chest
We cannot walk nor can we stand yet we know
we are safe just touching her hand
We cannot walk nor can we stand yet
we know we are safe if you just hold our hand
We lie in this bed with wrinkled hands and face
longing for the comfort of that special embrace
blinded by light gasping for breath we lay our
youthful face upon our Fathers chest
Now I hope you understand they are the same
we just know them by different names
So if you have fears lay them to rest
one is called birth the other is death