Tuesday Sleepover Open Comments

One of my sisters and I have been swapping out nighttime babysitting duty for Mom. The nurses can’t be here in her room 24/7, and in between changes and repositionings, Mom’ll wake up and need something.

…A leg rub, for that pain in her left leg.
…Repositioning some body part, usually her left arm. She can’t move it herself, and it slips off the pillow. It has to be kept elevated, else it swells up something terrible. Must keep the left arm up! Occasionally, there’s a leg or something that needs to be adjusted. The only limb she has any control over is her right arm. Note that I said, arm, not hand. She can’t hold anything, but she can manage to scratch her face.
…Or maybe it’s the pillow that needs to be pushed down further under her neck.
…She might need a diaper change between the regular scheduling. That depends upon how well her medication is working.
…Perhaps a sip of water. That’s all she takes, usually. I get up from wherever I’m sleeping so she can have a sip of water.
…If she thinks she’s lost the rosary we keep on her right hand, she gets pretty agitated. Her sensation of touch is pretty shot, so quite often we have to reassure that yes, it’s still on her hand and not dropped somewhere in the sheets.
…Maybe she just needs reassurance that she’s not alone.

You get the picture.

But not all of it. Taking care of Mom is just part of the sleepover fun we have here at the nursing home. There’s a whole host of nighttime activities to keep me company, should insomnia become a problem.

There’s Arthur, for one. He’s a mentally retarded individual that has been living here longer than Mom, and that’s saying something. When Mom first arrived, his hair was black. Now, it’s gray. He still wears pants that are several sizes too large. During the day, he sits in the lobby and greets people. At night, he roams the hallways, holding his britches up with his left hand. Thank goodness. I’ve never seen anyone visit Arthur. The staff here is all the family he has.

There’s the Alzheimer lady. She’s a cute little ol’ lady who thinks I’m some long lost friend of hers. She told me I’m still beautiful. She likes the Buc-ees cup that I was using today, said it was “very nice”. I like her. She roams the hall, too, at night. She occasionally sets off the front door alarm, and the staff gently urges her to the hallway, or perhaps sit in this nice chair and look out the window? Anything to get her away from that front door and that blasted ear-piercing alarm!

Speaking of little old ladies, there’s one that likes to hang out at the nurse’s station. At first, I thought she was an employee, but she’s a resident. She likes to feel helpful, so she sits behind the nurse and “helps” her. She’s friendly enough. Conversations with her can be a little…interesting. She doesn’t cause trouble, so she’s allowed to stay behind the counter.

There’s some guy in his scooter that likes to troll the hallway around 2:00 a.m. I think he goes out for sodas or something. There are several residents here with their motorized scooters that are allowed to come and go. Like the lady with the flag pole on the back of her chair. She always flies a small flag as she heads out each day, to return a while later with a case of sodas between her legs. She wears a lot of makeup, but always smiles at me. She really got me the day I saw her grab her gal friend’s wheelchair and pull it down the hall, so her friend didn’t have to work at keeping up with her. They don’t stroll down the sidewalk arm-in-arm and talk. The roll down the hallway.

There’s the security guard, too. Tonight, it’s Joe. I used to appreciate getting hugs and “m’lady” references from him. Not so much any more. ’nuff said about that. Joe, however, is a great help to the staff. He answers the phone for them, helps arrivals find their way, and I see him in the hallways talking to the staff. I don’t think he changes diapers, but I’m pretty sure he helps them with other stuff. Nice guy, as long as I keep my distance. I think he’s close to or past retirement age. He’s better than the guard they had here last weekend. She spent all her time on the couch in the lobby, on her phone. Except for when we think she was sleeping in her car…

On Station 1, there’s a lady who makes a “gaaawaaaawaaa” sound. Constantly. All. The. Time. I think the only time she’s quiet is when she’s sleeping. I’m assuming that the nurse and aides learn to tune her out.

As I type, I hear the “HEY” man from down the hall. He often calls out, over and over. I don’t know why. There’s another man throwing some kind of fit last night, yelling at the staff. Again, I don’t know why. But, boy, was he ticked off!

The staff here at Station 2 is pretty good. They come by every few hours to check, change, and move Mom. They have to move her periodically, to prevent bedsores. When Mom’s in her down phase, she absolutely hates it. Mom almost whacked an aide today, as she flung her one good arm out to protest being touched. She really hates the air booties to prevent sores on her heels. She used to love them. I think she got tired of them because she can’t move her feet with them on. Not like she can move her feet with them off, either, but it feels better. So we watch her feet carefully, and try to keep them off as much as we can. When Mom is “up,” she’s a real pleasure to work with. When she’s “down,” watch out for that good arm!

After being here as much as I have been lately, I realize that the people here aren’t just working jobs, they’re working a calling. It takes a certain kind of person to deal with these crazy, mixed-up, lonely people. And the night life here is just as hopping as the day time activity, so the certain kind of special goes on here, 24/7.

God bless ’em all.

Weekend Open Comments


The Picture: Sgt Arthur L Roy, Westover 99th Security Police Squadron standing an 8 hour shift standing guard over B-52 bombers and KC 135 tankers. The chill factor on this day was -12 degrees with frequent drops to -45 to -50 range. Exposed flesh can freeze in a minute in this weather.

Photo credit: TSgt Frank Tomaselli (Ret) 99th SPS 1968-1972.

I really do not want to demean the story I read about the soldiers that stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers during this last big snow blizzard.Truly it is an honorable endeavor and their dedication during inclement weather is a story worthy of notice.


General Orders for most US military sentries:
Number 1. I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.
Number 2. I will obey my special orders and perform all my duties in a military manner.
Number 3. I will report violations of my special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in my instruction, to the commander of the relief.

In all four services each provide sentries for themselves to protect personel and assets and eventually protecting you and me. These men and women often spend 8 to 12 hour tours of duty standing watch in inclement weather. Be it the Air Force sentry guarding nuclear assets on the ramp, an Army sentry standing watch on the remote perimeter of a base or Marines standing watch on the bow of a ship, all are asked to endure whatever the weather tosses at them while protecting their charge. Often they are the first line of defense to sound the alarm in case of attack or unforeseen emergency.

These men and women perform a thankless job and often go unrecognized for their dedication to country and duty even by their peers.

So I just want to say thank you to anyone who has stood guard. My prayers are lifted to the ear of Almighty God for you.


Friday Open Comments

“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.”

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

As they did last year, they’ve come twice in the last day. They’re kids out running “a raise money for NARAL” scam. They get a cut of anything they pull in, and they use any info they get to sell to Planned Parenthood or other death mills.

They’re pleasant and they are enthusiastic (I love the painting! I really admire the tree!) and they hand you the clipboard expecting you to sign in your enthusiasm to support their “work.”

I listen and then I tell them, “No, I don’t support what you’re doing or the people and causes that you represent. I think it’s evil for you to do this, and worse still to do it for money.”

Here in Seattle’s Queen Anne, where smiles, nods and signups for their scam are their usual rewards, they seem genuinely surprised and taken aback.

“You mean you’re not pro-choice?”

I assure them that I am not even if though, long ago, I was.

Yesterday evening, at night on the darkened porch, it was a young woman. She just shook her head and walked away to get on with her “mission” of going door to door bilking pro-choicers out of money. I guess she forgot to leave the chalk mark on my door that indicates “Satan!” because just now a boy old enough to be a man but forever avoiding it knocked with the same knock and announced himself as, “Hello, I’m your friendly neighborhood feminist.” He pointed towards the pink watch cap he wore.

He ran through the same spiel and handed me what could have been the same clipboard. I listened and handed it back to it saying, “I don’t support this.”

“You mean, you’re not pro-choice?”

“Do you have any children?”

“Ah… no.”

“Have you even been through an abortion with, say, a woman you love in support of her right to choose?”

“Well, no.”

“I’ve been through two. The first was one that I supported. The second was one that I had deep misgivings about but didn’t oppose.

“Those were all long ago, but now I know that those were two children I didn’t have and will never know, and not a month goes by I don’t think about that and regret it.

“If it ever happens to you, you’ll agree at the time and then, years later, it will come back to you. It will come back to you that you are missing children in your life and it is partially your doing. And it will haunt you, the thought of the people they could have been.

“You’re young and deluded. You’re going to walk away and make this a story you’ll tell to the other kids out running your scam. Then you’ll forget all about it for years, maybe decades, and you’ll go off and have some abortions of your own.

“And then one day, years after that, you’ll come to know what I know now. That’s when you’ll remember me; a man who through his own vanity and foolishness, kept two children out of his life.

“That’s when you’ll remember this moment. But like me, it will be too late for you.”

He walked away shaking his head, already moving into the forgetting. Some day, it will come back to him. I’ll be remembered as a stranger, but suddenly not all that strange.

Gerard Vanderleun, Seattle 2010