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Hi. I'm trying to think of another description to put here. Any ideas? I'll try again at 420.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

OK...

...I've started this a few times. The first couple of times the PC just booted me and the last time my power went out. It sounded like a bolt of lightning took it out but there wasn't any lightning. The sky was getting darker and the wind was picking up, but it didn't seem bad enough to knock the power out. It turns out that it was bad enough to knock down a rotten pine tree which took out a transformer.

The folks across the street were pointing down the side street that forms the corner that I live on. I didn't know what they were looking at. Within a few moments, fire trucks came down the street and turned the corner.

That's when I finally did look and I saw the downed tree. My power was out for hours so I had nothing to do except watch the pretty young men who had blocked off my street and were doing all that man work. The one in the cherry picker was pretty cute but there was another one that was even cuter down on the street. If I were 20 years younger, I would have had to invite him in for lemonade or some such refreshing drink.

The power came on just before I fell asleep. I was too tired to do anything except go to my room and wonder where the pretty boys were spending their Friday night. Then, I woke up this morning and started watching Band of Brothers, but that was too depressing for me even though I know that they won the war. I didn't want to watch all of the carnage.

So, here I am. The post that I was trying to write last night was about some of the people with whom I have had the privilege of working. I mentioned in one of the comments that I worked with a man who survived the Bataan Death March. His name was Frank Barker and he was a very kind and gentle man. He once told me that the Philippines were nothing compared to living in a nursing home. That's a pretty sad commentary on the way we treat our elderly.

When I first started working as a nurse, I remember reading the history's of my patients and many of them were born in 18-something. I haven't seen any of those in a long time. I've had the wonderful experience of caring for men who have fought in every war since WWI.

I was 17 when I started working in nursing homes. Back then, you didn't have to be certified to be a nurses aide, you just had to apply. So, I was never a CNA, just an NA. My first job in a nursing home changed my goal from that of wanting to be a teacher to one of wanting to be a nurse. I was a straight A student in nursing school. Before we graduated, we were all getting our jobs lined up.

One day we were all talking about where we'd be working once we graduated and I said that I was going to stay at Villa Scalabrini. That was (and probably still is) a nursing home for old Italian people. My fellow students thought I was nuts. "Why would you want to work there when you could work anywhere you wanted to?"

That was the first time that I realized that nursing home nurses are sort of looked down upon. I had never known that before but I certainly know that it's still true. But, the stories that I have and the people who I met are nothing to look down upon.

I adore working with those folks, specifically the Alzheimer's patients. I don't know why, I just love it.

There's enough different places for a nurse to work, you can pretty much pick and choose the place that you enjoy the most. Every few years I would go to a hospital to sharpen my skills, but I always go back to a nursing home sooner or later.

I worked at one place as the supervisor of the Medicare unit and every so often, they would ask me to cover a shift on one of the other units. There was a unit that had a room with a married couple in it. They had been married for 76 years. The wife was alert, the husband, not so much.

When I would go in there to give them their meds, the wife would say, "Daddy, are you cold? Please Nurse, cover him up. He's always so cold." So, I would do it. More for her than for him, he didn't seem to know if it was cold or not. Can you imagine? 76 years. Those two had been married before WWI. They remained married through that war, WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, the moon landing, Water Gate, the entire Cold War, Disco, the Reagan Administration, Michael Jackson's entire career, the Clinton era, the Persian Gulf War and a few space shuttle explosions.

One day I went to work over on their unit and when I went into their room, he was gone. The man had passed away quietly one night and his wife was alone for the first time in decades. There can't be a much lonelier feeling than losing the man with whom you've spent over 76 years of your life. She died shortly after he did, and I was very happy for her. I wouldn't want to face life without him either if I were her.

One place that I worked had 8X10 frames hanging outside the resident's rooms. In them was a picture of them when they were young and a card with a brief history of their lives. I had one patient who asked his girlfriend to marry him before he went to fight in WWII. He didn't want to marry her first in case anything happened to him. The picture in his frame was that of a very young, very handsome soldier. He had suffered a stroke and didn't remember much. He couldn't speak, but when his wife walked into his room every morning, his face lit up as though he was a child who had stolen a peek at Santa Claus. He didn't know much, but he knew when the love of his life entered the room. He was a large man and she, a tiny lady.

He would reach out his hand for her to hold, and she did. She would sit next to him, holding his hand until he would fall back asleep and then she would crochet all day. She made afghans for her husband. She wanted to do something for him, anything. She felt so helpless and she just stood by as we delivered his care. But she didn't realize that she was doing the only thing that he needed and the one thing that we couldn't do for him. She was THERE. What a smart man he was. He invested his life in a woman who paid him back in dividends that he couldn't have ever foreseen the need for. But, he covered all of his bases. His wife gave me a pair of silk pajamas right before I went to have surgery for my first cancer. I think of them everytime I put those jammies on.

There was Mary, a lady who, at one time, was a lovely, gracious woman who wouldn't have ever said a swear word to save her life. She had been a teacher for years. She developed some type of neuropathy that changed her personality. All we saw was a nasty woman who cussed at us every time we walked in her room. She was a major pain in the ass. But her husband, who remembered the lady that he married, came to sit with her every day. He always brought her favorite foods with him and tried to feed her even though she would nag the bejesus out of him the entire time. We wondered why he would subject himself to that treatment. She didn't seem to care if he was there or not. But, the answer is so obvious, he was in love. He loved her so much that when he looked at her, (these are his words) he "saw the same beautiful girl that I met in 1941."

Then there was Clara. Clara was a funny, funny woman. She would get up every morning and put her make up on, get dressed to the nines and then she would walk out the front door of the home to wait for her husband. She would sit on the bench outside the front door, all prettied up, waiting for her date. Every morning, he would show up and they would walk around the facility to the back door (she said that it made her feel like they were going out on a date) where they would enter the dining room as though they were walking into some restaurant. They would sit at a table alone, sharing her breakfast and talking. After more than 50 years of marriage, they still found things to talk about every single day. They were oblivious to the rest of the people in the dining room. After more than half a century, they were still the only people in their own world.

One day she had a stroke and she was unable to move. She developed huge bedsores in both of her hips and we had to be sure to change the dressings before he showed up in the morning. That's because one day he walked in while we were doing it and he broke down into tears. She didn't seem to know anything but when he finally passed away from a heart attack, she seemed to wait for him for about a week and when he didn't come back, she died in her sleep.

I could go on forever telling you about these love stories. The world is full of people who have spent their entire lives together, quietly loving each other. Unfortunately, our society doesn't value such love anymore, so there aren't as many of these couples as there used to be. To hear it on TV or watching any neighborhood, love is some hot and heavy lovemaking session. Not the daily caring that leads to lifelong partnerships. Real love is what I see in the eyes of an 80 year old man who sees the "same beautiful woman that he met in 1941." Although it's a very selfless thing, it pays you back in ways that you never dream of. It's two people who have been together long enough to have children and watch those children have children and then THOSE children have children. Even when one of the lovers dies, they can look around at their great grandchildren and see their love every day that they live. How do we get that back?

10 Comments:

Blogger Jaded&Opinionated said...

I stumbled across your blog a while back, and have read off and on since then. I haven't commented before, because often I think it's strange to comment about the personal life of someone I've never met. But, this post was one of the most beautiful things I've ever read, anywhere. If you don't mind, I'd like to put a link to this post on my blog, because I think it's such a wonderful post. Let me know if it's alright with you.

June 24, 2006  
Blogger Meg said...

Of course it's OK. When I was a kid, I saw a movie that I've been looking for ever since. I don't remember the name of it but it was a fantasy about two little kids who would frolic with their dead grandparents. they could because "when the kids remembered the grandparents, the grandparents came alive again. I liked that. If we remember them, they're still alive, wasn't that on The Wrath of Khan?

By the way, I love your screen name!

Meg

June 25, 2006  
Blogger Slymustanglady said...

what a great post!!!!!

June 25, 2006  
Blogger Meg said...

I'm glad that you like it Girl! Nice to see you again and to know that you're still around!

Meg

June 25, 2006  
Anonymous Mandi said...

Hey Meg. I loved this latest post. I am right in the middle of 5 living generations. My great grandmother is 97. She is one of the oldest living Avon representatives, and the oldest living to sell over $30k in product every year. I love going home to visit and listening to the stories she tells me about her life. The love she and my great grandfather shared, the farm they built together and she ran after his passing, her raising 8 children pretty much on her own. I think history is fascinating when it's told by someone who lived it. She's seen multiple wars, the introduction of electricity into homes, plumbing indoors, the introduction of cars, countless presidents, thousands of new inventions, discoveries. It makes me ill to see the way the eldery are disregarded, mistreated, and ignored by younger generations. I feel blessed to have such a treasure in my life. Her only ailment is the gradual loss of her hearing. I wish there werem ore people like us who saw these older people as the gems they are.

June 25, 2006  
Blogger Meg said...

Hi Mandi!

Nice to hear from you again. I remember you telling me about your great grandmother before. Yep, those folks ARE absoluetly amazing. There are some people who see them for the amazing gems that they are, but not enough. I love listening to them as well. I have enough stories to tell about some wonderful people that I've met. I could write a book about all of them.

I remember a man named Dan O'Reardon who was 101 years old. This was back when I was maybe 22 years old. He would be walking along the hallway, holding the rail. When he'd see me, he would say, "Aye Meg, you've the map of Ireland all over your face!" and then he would grab my arm and make me dance a jig with him. I loved that old man.

When my company leaves tonight I'll write a post about some of the great people who I've met and some of the stories that they've told me. You're right, they have such great stories and hearing them from the people who lived to see history is amazing. How lucky you are to have so many generations still around! I miss my grandmother so very much. Now, my father is the only buffer left between me and the Grim Reaper. I haven't much of a buffer left!

I'll be back later tonight unless he leaves me too exhausted to get up and type:):):)

Meg

June 25, 2006  
Blogger SassyFemme said...

Oh my gosh, you just described the type of love my parents had for each other, even after mom got really sick, and dad had alzheimer's. No matter what, until the very end, the incredible love they had for each other shined through. Even after she died, he loved her and missed her greatly and died a little over a year later. I loved hearing the stories they told about dating and falling in love. Oh what I wouldn't give to be able to just sit and listen to them tell those stories again.

Great blog, found it from teh link at Jaded & Opinionated.

June 26, 2006  
Blogger Meg said...

Aren't you lucky to have seen that kind of love in your own home! I remember seeing my parents hug each other once and it made me feel so good. That shows how rare the displays of devotion were in my home.

It's odd how so many married couples seem to die so close to each other. It seems to only work on the couples who have spent their entire lives together.

I hope that your children say the same thing about you and your marriage one of these days!

Meg

June 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post describes the relationship my late husband and I shared. I've known people who have been unhappily and horribly "married" for years. I don't think the number of years is necessarily indicative of the depth of the bond.
My DH died almost 20 yrs. ago leaving me a young widow. When we learned he was dying I brought him home and cared for him until his death. It was the most exhausting endeavor of my life but also an honor and a privilege. (We live remotely and Hospice was just getting started; they were such a disaster I threw them out of our home.) It was the fulfillment of the words we spoke to one another on the happiest day of my life: "In sickness and in health, till death do we part." The last words he spoke to me before he slipped into a coma were, "TW, you ARE the love of my life." I never doubted his love for me or mine for him.
I can not begin to tell you how many people-at HIS SERVICE said to me, "Oh, you're young-you'll get married again." As if one husband could be 'traded' for another. They started making sure their "prizes" (husbands/SO's) were NEVER alone with me. Suddenly, I became some kind of threat. I was never interested in their "men" or engaged in any kind of flirting, expressed ANY interest in ANY way. I was shocked at how many married men/living-with-partner guys hit up on me. It was disgusting. I read the Wedding Anniversary notices in the local paper complete with picture of the "Loving Couple" and know I'm not the only female shaking my head in disbelief-as would anyone else who knows this couple.
So here I am, almost 20 yrs. later, still single and turning into a cliche-the old widow with the geriatric cat. And yes, I've certainly had some "adventures" during those years and NONE with married/"living with SO" men. It's been interesting but the bottom line for me? When you've had the best, you don't lower your standards.
And I STILL love my husband. So don't assume the couple that's been married for a zillion years all share some deep and enduring bond. They've been miserable for years and sometimes I think they stay together out of sheer spite and habit never mind just plain inertia. At this stage in their lives no one else would want either of them under any circumstances and at least they're smart enough to know it.
TW

May 14, 2012  
Blogger Meg Kelso said...

I was shocked at how many married men/living-with-partner guys hit up on me.


Nothing men do shock me anymore. (Of course, let me toss in the obligatory "Women do it too") When I first started dating again, I was amazed at the way older men still just wanted a piece of ass. They hadn't lost a bit of their nerve, just their hair.

May 14, 2012  

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