Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Favorite Nursing Home Stories

In the previous post, I mentioned that my family visits nursing homes. We have some funny stories that I'd like to share.

The first one is my most embarrassing one. This happened before my family started visiting nursing homes. I was nine years old, and I was in a girl's group called Pre-Excel at a seminar for a week. On the last day, we visited a nursing home to sing the songs that we had learned that week. The night before I was fretting aloud about it to my mom. I was always a shy girl, and I was very nervous about visiting with so many strangers and singing in front of a whole nursing home. My mom, who was always my rescuer, said that I could attend the adult seminar with her if I didn't feel like going to the nursing home. I was very tempted, but I decided that I needed to overcome my fear. I went to the nursing home, and the singing went fine, but then we were told to go chat with the people. I looked around; some of the people were sleeping through all of the commotion, some of them were talking very loudly, some of them were acting a bit crazy. I looked some more and found a nice, normal-looking lady that appeared to be pretty safe, so I slowly walked towards her. I said hello, and we started talking; she was a very sweet lady. I was tongue-tied, and I couldn't hold a conversation very well because of my shyness. I answered any question that she asked me, and then I would ask her the same question to keep the conversation going. She asked me where I lived. I told her and asked her the same thing. She replied with a startled look, "Well, I live right here!" I thought, "How stupid can I get?!" Of course, I tried to recover and say that I meant, "Where did you live before?" but I was just fumbling for words in my embarrassment.

The rest of the stories are after my family started visiting nursing homes regularly.

My brothers and I went to sing and play guitar at a local nursing home, and there were two sweet Alzheimer's ladies there, Gracie and Ruth. Gracie thought that my brother Jon was very handsome, and she told him so. She also told him that if she ever found a handsome young man, she'd marry him, that's what she'd do! We later found out that she'd had eleven children. Ruth asked me my name, and after I told her that it was Grace, she smiled and told me enthusiastically that that was her mother's name. She asked me my middle name, so I told her Elizabeth. She looked a bit disappointed as she said, "Oh, my mother's name was Grace Mildred." She was my friend the rest of the night, though, and she asked me what my name was several times, always going through the same dialogue about her mother. She was so cute. At the end of the night, she put her arm in mine and asked me to walk her back to her room. On the way there, she asked me my name. Her mother's was Grace Mildred.

We visited Ruth and Gracie several times, and I found out that although Ruth couldn't remember the answer she got to a question just a minute ago, she could remember every detail of her life before her disease. She would rattle off the names of her children and grandchildren, the addresses she had lived at, and the churches she had attended. When we brought her a Christmas card with a nativity on it, she read it very intelligently. She put down the card and said,"You know, I've always wondered, what was Mary thinking? What was she going through? She was going to have the Son of God." every year after that we would bring her a Christmas card and wait for her to say, "You know, I've always wondered, what was Mary thinking? What was she going through? She was going to have the Son of God." She read her Bible every day; I love that pleasant, godly lady.

One time we visited Ruth and asked her how Gracie was doing. She said that Gracie was in her room taking a nap. "She needs lots of naps; she had eleven children and has some catching up to do," she said with a twinkle in her eye. A man working there informed us that Gracie had died a while back, but she was still very alive in Ruth's mind. I felt so sad, but I thanked God for sparing Ruth's mind from that news and for giving her such joy.

Another lady we loved to visit was Peg. Peg was much more out of it than Ruth. She could hardly hear, her mind would slip into oblivion, and she would start singing unintelligible songs no matter what was going on. She didn't care much for any of us except my little brother Daniel. She'd look at him and smile and say, "What a cute little boy! Where do you go to school?" She'd always ask him that.

When we were eating supper with Peg, my mom asked Peg pleasantly whether she liked cats or dogs better. Peg asked "WHAT?" My mom repeated the question. Peg asked "WHAT?" Peg's relative told Peg the question, and Peg looked at my mom and replied, "I don't know, WHY?" in a tone that displayed her disgust and told us that she thought that was the stupidest question she'd ever heard.

Another time, the nursing home held an outdoor picnic for us and the residents. My brother Andrew asked Peg, "Do you want to eat outside?" She replied grumpily, "I don't care." After a little bit, Andrew asked her again, because Alzheimer's patients aren't supposed to remember anything. She scowled at him and answered him harshly, "I told you; I don't care!" Poor Andrew looked chastened.

My mom, Daniel and I went with our friend to take her husband back to the Alzheimer's ward after a worship time. When we walked in, a tiny, old woman named Emma saw Daniel and thought he was the cutest thing. She moved in close to his face and gradually got closer and closer as she gazed into his eyes. He backed up into a wall, and just when I thought the lady was going to kiss him, our friend said, "Emma, he's my boyfriend; you can't have him!" We all burst out laughing, and poor Daniel's face kept getting redder and redder.

If you made it this far, congratulations, and I hoped you enjoyed the stories. I have a special place in my heart for the elderly, and I want you to, also.

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