Seeking Beauty

old hands

I work in a nursing home, okay okay—— long term care facility.

What comes to mind when you think nursing home?  Depressing, lonely, drab, scary, death-like, bad smells right? Most stereotypes of nursing homes are negative. It’s a place that you wouldn’t nescessarily want to spend your time, let alone the last years of your life. I have visited my great grandma at a nursing home, it was so uncomfortable, it smelled so strange, and it was kind of awful seeing my Gramie so confused and unable to take care of herself like she once did.

Working in a nursing home is like coming from a complete 180 perspective of what family and friends might see, what I experienced once, my one time stereotypes have completely changed.

The residents that I have come to know and love I have very little expectations of,  I just appriciate them for who they are today, I don’t miss them or compare them to who they once were. That is, I do understand, impossible for a family member to do completely, when you know your mom, dad, son, daughter, uncle, aunt, neighbor, friend for a long time and they make a sudden or even a gradual decline in functionality or change in personality it is like a death, and I would imagine you never quite get over who that person was once before.

I wish for visitors and loved ones just to, what my Grandpa is constantly saying…. “Just enjoy the interval”, enjoy and appriciate where your loved one is today. Miss them for who they once were, mourn that, don’t ignore it but see the beauty in who they are now.

To no end am I amused by the residents where I work, every single one is absolutely precious and has taught me infinitly about human nature,  I’m so blessed to meet them and I hope in some way repay their lessons by serving them and showing love to them in any way possible. I want to seek beauty in unlikely places… and I think I’ve found some…

When Agatha* throws her plate on the ground and it shatters in a million pieces and she throws back her head and giggles incessantly like it’s the joke of the century, it entertains me that a 90+ lady can still possess so much gumption.

When Ruby visits me in the morning and describes in immaculate detail exactly what she would like for breakfast (even though it absolutely never changes) and eagerly tells me of the latest chapter of her book on tape.

When Morgan, whilst I butter his bread, tells me grand stories of climbing trees and harvesting wild honey, making candles, and his philandering days in Idaho.

When Neville escapes his wheel chair and informs me (very convincingly I might add) that he needs to leave because the cows need milking.

When Rosalyn wanders into my office takes all my papers on my desk and arranges them in neat piles, and talks on my phone (upside down) to someone named Roberta?

When I see Margret’s husband come in every single day to visit,  hold hands and walk the halls with her in the wheel chair, to observe that sort of ancient love, still as true and much more selfless as it was 65 years ago

When Holly writes notes to me on her tray card, in the most beautiful script I’ve ever seen, even if it’s about peanut butter sandwiches, I still want to frame it.

When you ask Victoria how her day is she beams and blushes immediately and informs you that she just got married to her SECOND (emphasis on second for some reason) husband, although in reality she has been widowed for 6 years.

When Alice asks for a clothing protector (essentially a bib, which we are NEVER allowed to offer, residents must request one) quite loudly, making a big deal of it, not because she actually needs it (she has perfect eating dexterity) but because when the other residents saw her wear one and hear her ask for one they all want one too. Such a smart lady, sacrificing her own pride and needs for the sake of others dignity.

When Drake, no matter how much he dislikes the food, always starts his sentence…. “I don’t want to complain, I don’t want to be a bother, I know it’s a hard job but may I possibly have…” It makes me think that when my own entitled generation enters the nursing home stage, what horrible, selfish brats they will be.

When Terrel visits his mom, every day, on “sad days” he brings her a McDonalds Happy Meal (with the toy OF COURSE) and helps her enjoy it.

I could go on and on, I’m not sure if its the generation of adults that I am primarily working with or if it’s just the precious people at this facility but I’ve been blown away with what beautiful people they are. What wisdom they have collected in their years on earth, and how disappointing that our culture values youth, when a huge, beautiful generation of people are not being appreciated as I think they should. And for the residents that aren’t quite as sharp as they once were, they still have wonderful lessons to share.

I’m rambling, but I’m so happy with this new job. I truly love it. Yes, sometimes I see “hard” things, sometimes things are confusing and I screw up big time, sometimes it’s stressful and sometimes the days are looooooooooong. But the oppurtunity to see the rare rose of beauty in the people I serve is so worth it. It’s a rare beauty, only seen when you look for it, but it will never disappoint. And it will always show up when least expected.

* I never use real names, but I have made up names for my friends, just fyi