I walked into the nursing home I used to visit in the summer, since I'm back in town for Christmas. A plastic Christmas tree with white and blue lights decorating it sat in the corner while Christmas songs spewed from the radio. There they were the beauties I left in the summer. Robert sat on the living room sofa gazing off into a distant place. Helena walking in all her elegance with gold Mardi Gras beads and a red Christmas sweater. Her eyes lit up as she approached me. "Do you remember Luisely, Helena?" the nursing home event director asked her. "Yeah, yeah. " She came within an inch distance from my eyes smiling and with her soft hands caressed my face, "As beautiful as ever." I smiled, she remembered. She sat on her walker's pop-out stool and began her stories in German, as I listened attentively straining to find any resemblance to English. Her eyes vividly shared the emotions felt in the story. She leaned closer to me and let her nose touch mine and began rubbing her nose against mine. We laughed and laughed. I began singing to her and she sang along in German. I missed her.
I continued forward and met a few new faces, as some others died leaving room for them. Mary sat with two balls of pink yarn looking at them perplexed. I introduced myself and asked her if she planned on knitting anything. "Oh no, no. This is a cube and this is a ball. T.t.t.t.tttttt.ttttttt." Her frail hands colored dark blue from her veins handed one of the balls of yarn to me as she searched for the newspaper. Her eyes lay deep into their ocular cavities. Mary began describing all the liquor advertised on the page between mumbles, "This bottle's round and this one, you see, this one is long and this one costs $19.99 and this one $47.99." We sat and reviewed the bottles for a little less than half an hour. Rebecca sat next to us and began singing Christmas carols looking towards me for company. I sat between them both singing away, baffled at Rebecca's memory. Rebecca cannot remember how many children she has and remembers every word to "O Holy Night." Mary interrupted, "Are you listening to me?" "Yes, Mary I'm listening." With a sigh of relief Mary continued explaining each bottle of vodka, brandy, and rum on the page.
In the television room I met Margaret and William. William, a strapping old man, opened with, "Are you going to give me a bath?" "No, I'm not." "Would you like to give me a bath?" he questioned with a grin. "No, sir." William had been sitting in the same sofa for three hours waiting for the nurse from Hospice to come bathe him. "They think I don't remember how long I've been waiting because of my condition. I've lost some of it, not all of it though." He asked me for a tissue to wipe his drool as he told me his stories of his four wives and life in the Air Force and Navy and how he's been sober for 50 years. "I say it was all God. It's not easy to quit, but for me, after trying for so long and never succeeding, one day it just happened. I quit." "It was a miracle." "I guess so," he answered. I asked him about his children and he asked me to stop asking questions, "I have this condition... it begins with L... uh, I can't remember what its called... something that makes me loss my thoughts." "Alzheimer's," I interrupted. "Ah, yes that. One day I was out doing my exercise. Walking around the neighborhood and something came into me and I couldn't stop walking." a pause followed. "That was two years ago. Now I've been to so many homes I couldn't keep track of them. This is my second week here." "Is it annoying to forget?" "Its frustrating."
Before leaving I asked for Lily. The event coordinator told me she'd been sick, but walked me to her room anyway. She entered before me checking to see if Lily's slumber continued. "Lily, you've got a visitor that you haven't seen in a very long time. You want to see her?" I came around the corner and heard her breath change as she saw me. "Oh!" she shrilled. One of her eyes couldn't open, her sweater almost revealed her breasts, and her diaper needed changing. "You're back!" "Yes, ma'am I am." "For how long?" "A whole month!" "Oh good." She rested her head back down on the bed and with a look of embarrassment sighed. "Do you want Luisely to come visit another day Lily?" the coordinator asked. "Mmmhmm." "Okay, Lily see you soon." "I'm glad you came back," she whispered.
Sitting, singing, interpreting, waiting, smelling... the visit reminded me that Kay Pov residents live everywhere. They help me see life.