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Nursing Homes Are Sad Places

Nursing homes are sad places, I tell you. Last night the Center invited families to dinner, but we were the only family that came. We had Mexican food nursing home style. It was pretty awful. The people all look so sad – slumped over in their wheelchairs, food stuck in the beards of men for whom there is no one to shave them. The women have no teeth. Their chins touch their noses. A crazy man wearing peach-colored ladies sweats stares at me. He looks a little like Charles Manson. A sign on the wall says, “Welcome! New Life Begins Here!” Are you kidding me?

Are you kidding me?

My father is wearing a bib. He doesn’t eat his crappy burrito. I am afraid of offending these nice people who fixed this meal for the residents’ families. I am their only guest – me and the kids.

I tell my father, who was a minister, “Sunday is Easter, Daddy.” I look for some sign that he remembers this holiest of days. He stares through me, passed me, over my shoulder and into the abyss of his memory, which for Easter, no longer exists. Sully reaches for him. I say, “Sully, this is mommy’s daddy.” He yells at me. “That not your daddy! That my pa-pa.”

I get up to throw my tray of food away. I hope nobody sees me dumping this full plate of food. Taco shells soaked in orange dripping grease; sticky, soggy, tasteless rice. Sully tried to cut his ice cream scoop of dried out refried beans with a plastic knife. The people here scoot their wheelchairs along walking one foot forward and pushing the wheel opposite with one hand.

Nobody looks happy.

***

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

I spent some formative years in Southeast Kansas – my high school years, actually. The winters punctured like a stingray and the summers were as hot as lizard’s foot in August. The proms were amazing. Walls of streamers transformed the gymnasium into Air Supply fantasies: Lost in Love; I’m All Out of Love; Even the Nights Are Better. I rode a lot of horses during the years I lived in Kansas. I played on the farms of my friends and the people at our church brought us brown eggs and grocery sacks full of corn. I went to prom my sophomore year in a dress by Nadine, which my mother and I bought at a Tulsa bridal shop. It was $140 and was white with a light blue sash. I felt famous wearing this dress because a picture of it appeared in an advertisement in Seventeen magazine.

My last good years with my father were before Kansas. Before Alzheimer’s began its slow march.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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1 Comment

  1. Matt

    Excellent thoughts. It is nice to see we can find humor and still be respectful. I spent several years working as a facility liaison for a skilled nursing center. I often met with families bringing their loved one to stay with us. A difficult transition for all involved to say the least. For some families, they had taken care of their family member for a long time and had finally reached the end of their rope. Finding a way to make this transition as smoothly as possible and with some humor helped. I’ve seen a lot of resources that help. One in particular seems to be a great benefit: http://www.thecaringspace.com Please pass this link along to anyone you feel could benefit from it.

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