What Once Was.

Walking into the lobby, I wasn’t sure what to expect once I asked where abouts my aunt was. She’s been living here since October and it’s only now – 8 months later in July – that I am coming to visit her. I don’t like this place. It’s not nearly as warm an inviting as the home I work in. It has a very hospital-like atmosphere with 2 person rooms, privacy provided by nothing but a curtain and medicine carts scattered in the halls. The walls are white and the stench of urine is prominent. This isn’t the first class in nursing home facilities but it’ll do. I’m not even sure if she knows the difference. I have no idea if she’ll even recognize me.

When I reach the second floor I ask for her room and I walk towards it not sure what to expect. I feel nervous, sad and a touch of guilt taps lightly on my shoulder.

She isn’t there. Huh.

I wish these rooms were more personalized. I wish there was more than a puke-yellow curtain separating the beds. I wish she wasn’t here.

She sits in the living room, surrounded by other residents waiting for some sort of recreation activity to occur. I don’t recognize this woman. This strong, beautiful, old-school Italian woman who used to shove baked goods down my throat at any chance. Her hair is graying, but a hint of strawberry blond still remains. She’s a lot thinner, and sitting in a wheel chair looking out in this room and I wonder if she has any idea where she is. There isn’t plastic covering the furniture. Clearly not an Italian living room.

Oddly enough upon approaching her I find myself speaking in Italian to her. Simple phrases, but enough that it gets through and I’m fairly certain that she recognizes me. I tell her my name, who my father and grandmother are and she smiles. Her voice is quiet so I lean to hear and she asks how my Nonna is. Tutto è buono, Nonna è buono. Weird, I can actually speak this language.

I tell her I’ll come to visit her again and as I wait for the elevator I blow her a kiss and she reaches out to catch it.

Yes, I work in a nursing home and yes, I see residents of this magnitude all the time. But they aren’t my mom, my sister, my aunt or my grandma. I only know these people as Jane who has dementia. Tom who suffers from Alzheimer’s and Bipolar Disorder.

I never knew these people prior to them coming in. When you know someone, and know how they once were, seeing them in this completely different life is difficult. I fully understand why some family members don’t come to see their loved ones. It’s not because they’re evil, it’s because they’re scared. They’re guilty. They’re sad. My sympathies are with everyone who’s ever had to admit someone into a nursing home. They’re not selfish. They’re courageous.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s