All stories come from life as we live, observe and participate in it. These are two stories among many I’ve come to know over the years, especially the years I spent doing nursing home consulting. When I was asked several years ago why I got out of that field, I replied “I resigned when a resident asked me where my room was.” These two short vignettes are fictionalized stories about so many people I have enjoyed meeting over the years. Use them as you like.
The Great Escape
She is eighty years old and uses a quad cane because several years ago she had a stroke. “The doctors said I’d never walk or talk again, again, but I fooled them!” She lost her husband of sixty years six months earlier, and found holidays hard to bear, especially living in a nursing home. A people person, she talks of “walking the lonely halls” of the nursing home making contact with people.
“Do you know what I did the other day?” she said, leaning over and speaking in a conspiratorial whisper. “I ran away!” She sat back with a look of delight on her face. “I took it as a dare. I knew I couldn’t make it out the f mont door, so I found a back door that was unlocked and went out there. I walked all the way up to Main Street (two blocks away) because I’d never been there, and was curious. I was afraid to cross the street because of all the traffic, so I tapped a man on the shoulder and asked if he’d help an old lady cross the street. He turned a’round and said: Sure, where is she?’ I said ‘Why, right here!’ with a smile on my face. He and three of his friends took me to an espresso shop across the street and we spent the next hour laughing and talking and drinking coffee. He asked me if I liked latte’s and I said ‘Sure, they’re my favorite!’ and he bought me an almond latte. It was really good! When we came out the door, there were the people from the nursing home, and I waved at them and said ‘I know you!'”
The next time I saw her she looked grumpy. “It was cold last night, and one of the nursing aides brought me a blanket! I told her ‘I was married for over sixty years. I don’t need a blanket, I need a man!’ Hmph! One day maybe she’ll understand.” Looking up at me, she winked.
It’s clear she relishes the memories and enjoys telling about them. I’m not sure if she embellishes them, and don’t care if she does. Truth, as the old saying goes, is in the telling.
Where Do I Go?
She is ninety-three years old and she doesn’t know where she is supposed to go. She stands near where two nurses are talking, expectant and silent. I look over at her and smile, and she comes over and says: “I don’t know where I’m supposed to go?”
“Where would you like to go?” I ask.
Smiling, she says “I’d like to go to Heaven, but we don’t do that here, do we?”
“No, we don’t,” I reply; “Where would you like to go instead? Would you like to go to your room?”
“That would be nice, but we have to ask the nurses,” which I do. Giving their permission, I escort her to her room. A relative has given her a beautiful swing rocker for Christmas, and I say “Oh, how beautiful it is.”
When I leave, she is seated in it, like a queen or a child, a smile of satisfaction playing on her face.