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I miss teaching. I miss summer vacation. Christmas vacation, Easter break, President's day. I miss the bell that says "go home", or the one that signals the end of a horrible class. I miss teenagers, the chatter, the hang-dog looks, the laughter, the tons of long healthy hair.

Even cafeteria duty which used to be a punishment. Listening in on pre-pubescent conversations to get a hint of what the next generation is thinking. Standing in the corner looking bored so they don't know I'm taking it all in.

I miss teaching. Seeing that light bulb go on, hearing myself explain something I really know and looking into young eager eyes that want the information. Priceless. The feeling that something good and real and valuable has happened here today. Sitting quietly with a 14 year old whose friends have decided to 'hate' her today. I miss it.

And yet--nursing the elderly has it's moments too. No doubt it's worthwhile. I still get to intimately connect with other human beings. Only this time it feels like most of the learning is on my part. I've been a teenager, I know what they feel, how they think. But old is something yet to be for me. I can only imagine how old feels. I love hearing the stories when they can tell one and when I have the time. The "good-old-days" when there were no TV's computers or pollution. When people connected in ways we nostalgically wonder about. When Sunday was a day of rest and that meant sitting in the parlor talking. Think about that for a minute.

Looking into old eyes I see the child, the teen, the young man or woman. The lights are still on and someone is in there. They look to me for care, understanding and sustenance. They shake their heads sadly when I just don't get it and I'm frustrated. I can ease their aches for awhile, give them the gift of my time, or a magazine, some cream on their feet. I can try to listen and empathize. They need me, well maybe not me exactly but they need the connection with a younger generation just as we all need connections with people older and younger than ourselves. We are all teachers and we are all students learning how to live how to-be.

So yes I miss teaching and school, but the world is school and learning never ends. Sometimes though I just wish the bell would ring.


Jul. 9th, 2010 01:34 am
theblues_nursinghomestyle: (Default)
"They treat us like mannequins", I hear this as I squeeze past two wheel-chair-bound women. They nod sagely, looking up at me eye brows raised with that certain tilt of the head, meaning 'yeah, she's one of them. What an odd thing to say I think, and it haunts me for days. Why do they feel like that?

A mannequin according to wiki, is "(also called a mannekin, mannikin, manikin, dummy, or lay figure) is often an articulated doll used by artists, tailors, dressmakers, and others especially to display or fit clothing. Did these women feel like dolls? Did we simply dress them each day to our liking? No, that's not what they meant...or this one, "A mannequin is a life-sized model of the human figure, used especially in advertising and sales. That's closer I thought, life size model of a human being. Something we notice, obliquely but don't really give the time of day to.

A mannequin has no soul, nothing behind it's painted on eyes. A mannequin is mostly...ignored. That's what they mean. We ignore them, treat them like a mannequin, dress them, feed them, move them around the nursing home on our own whims. Go to PT, to OT, the dining room now. Go to the bathroom, sit down on the toilet, brush your teeth we order in bored voices. As they do our bidding our own eyes glaze over staring into the distance, thinking about what's for our own dinner, our own plans, what we will do when are no longer here at work.

The mannequins, are wheeled down the hall while we talk, not to them but to each other, they aren't real why would we talk to them? That would be crazy--talking to a mannequin. It must seem to them that we don't SEE them. Their very humanity is obscured by their age in our young eyes. We see gray hair, gray eyes, hear confused conversations, and forget this is NOT a mannequin. This is a real live person. Just like me--only old. Maybe even BETTER than me in some ways. Mannequins don't age, they are forever young, beautiful, skinny and beautifully dressed. They never, ever change. Not one tiny bit.

People on the other hand are tall, short, fat, old, young, skinny, smelly, funny or angry. They act horrible or very kind. The differences are easy to see. So why are two old ladies made to feel unreal? The mind that thought that profound complex idea is most definitely alive, soulful, spiritual, and worthy of so much more than a clean set of clothes that get hung on them tomorrow, and a meal of ground pizza.
theblues_nursinghomestyle: (Default)
Making my after dinner rounds at the nursing home, I'm rushing down the hall hoping everyone is asleep. I have notes to write, order to transcribe, doctors to call, appointments to make. Please let it stay quiet tonight. At the last door, about to turn and head back to the desk I hear sniffling, quiet barely there weeping, a child-like voice in the darkened room, "I wanna go home". I peek into the night-light lit darkness and she sees me; The plaintive voice whispers, the old wrinkled hand reaches for me. I step in and reach for her fingers brushing the tips with mine. Sitting up slowly She pats the bed next to her moves an inch or two to make room tries to smile asking me to sit and stay. I bend to hear her better, her roommate is snoring lightly. Soft, paper thin, blue veins on the back of her shriveled hand I trace with my index soft. Whimpering with great heaves of shuddering old lady breath in my left ear. I have so much work to do, so many patients, so many medications to give, so many old people to check on.

"Please" she's begging now, grabbing my hand tighter, lifts my chin with her other hand, forcing me to see her watery blue-gray eyes. "Im-a-wanna-go home" Italian, 'no-speak-a-the-englaise'. And me, no speak-a-the Italiano. But, this conversation needs no words. I can tell from the voice, almost a keening, the barely concealed sobs, the deep deep down hurt- confusion and unspeakable sadness, it's universal-I wanna go home.

They all wanna go home-think they're going home, talk about going home. Someone's coming to get them tomorrow, later next week, in June, at Christmas. Their husband, their wife, son, parents, granddaughter, coming to take them home. Only they aren't. Ever. Not today, not later, not next year. This lady, this forgotten human being lives in a nursing home and she's got the blues-got'em bad tonight. It's about 90 degrees in her room, yet she's cold. I sit on the edge of her bed- a major infraction, and sigh.

She points to pictures on the wall. "Me-momma, me-poppa, me baby" she wants me to know she has loved ones, was once a loved-member of a family, part of something. Tears wind their slow journey following the wrinkles on her cheeks, get caught in the crease at the corner of her mouth, and finally drip off her chin, land on my younger smoother hand and dry there. I rub her hand as she cries, pat her back, smooth her thin strands of hair and touch her face. She grabs me around the neck pulls me in close for a hug, crying.

She smells like powder, I croon some sounds tut-tutting, and shushing her as I would a small hurt child. That's who's crying, the little lost sad girl inside this ancient body. "It's okay shussssh" ,I whisper, We love you, we take care of you". It isn't hard work-but it's powerfully sad. I feel my heart beating against her old old chest, I hear a distant painful cry down the hall and I have to go. I kiss her lined face, she presses my tear stained hand to her disappearing lips and gasps her good-night. She pats her heart and pats my chest where my heart is. We are friends. I am her family. I am her nurse. Buona Sera bella.


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July 2010

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