Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Never mess with an old lady's oatmeal.

I made a promise about 20 years ago not only to myself but to some exceptional friends that I'd never forget them.  I've kept my end of the bargain.  I think about my friends almost every day.  When I made this promise, I also made a separate vow that I'd write these memories down on paper.  My hope was that eventually I'd publish a book.  Unfortunately, I've discovered that I'm an impatient soul.  If I can't complete something and see the final results in less than an hour I tend to lose hope that I'll ever finish it.  Perhaps blogging their stories is a better route; short, sweet, and simple.  This will be the first of what I hope to be many of my Sunnyrest rambles:

Dedicated To Sunnyrest Nursing Home
and to the Many Loves of My Life

Claree Day Middleton* was a beautiful, old, southern black woman who lived in Sunnyrest Nursing Home long before I had the honor of being employed there.  I had absolutely no experience at being a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).  This residential facility gave on the job training and certified their aides through their wonderful nursing staff. 

When I was hired, my life and bank account were at an all time low.  My first marriage in Colorado was falling apart and I had absolutely no friends or family with whom I could count on for emotional support.  I was a train wreck.  I needed something, anything, to show me that life had meaning.  Claree Day Middleton was my "something" and ironically, she entered my life at the end of her own.

Claree had serious dementia.  She had no concept as to where and when she was.  In a way, after working with seniors for as long as I did, I truly believe this can be a blessing.  My only hope, if I live as long as this lovely lady, is that I whistle Jingle Bells in the middle of July.  I don't believe I'll want to know what's happening to my body.  I don't think I'll want to remember who I've lost in life.  This plays a major factor in the story I'm about to share.

Before and after lunch, many of the dementia patients enjoyed sitting in the nurse's station to watch the activity of the aides unfold around them. As we passed by, the residents would shout out bizarre comments or scream profanities which could make a sailor blush.  I do believe I learned some of my finest string of curses from a 98-year old angelic looking lady named, Wilma*.

One day, as I was practically running passed Claree to attend an urgent call, she yelled at me in her magnificent, southern accent, "Girl!  Where'd you get them big tits?!"

Without missing a beat, I grinned, placed my index finger to my lips, and indicated that this wasn't an appropriate thing to shout in the middle of the hallway.

Another afternoon, as I was bending over to pick up a lap blanket beside her, her voice boomed clear and bold, "Girl!" (clearly offended this time) "Get that big, fat, white ass out of my face!"

Oh my, Claree Day Middleton!  There was never a dull moment around this lovely lady. 

Not only was she in residential care due to her dementia, but she also had a very painful extended bowel problem.  Her pain was so intolerable that oftentimes she had no idea what was wrong with her.  On my side of the building, there were two groups of patients; one which needed assistance with eating, the other who only needed help getting to the Dining Room.  Claree was in the first group.  She needed a CNA at her table to make sure she stayed awake and ate her food properly. 

I happened to be the aide sitting at her table on a day when she was in an incredible amount of bowel pain.  She was having her meal with the group of patients she sat with every day and unfortunately, Claree was extremely verbal about her discomfort. She was confused and started making her breakfast partners very uncomfortable and rightfully so.  Claree thought, at her advanced aged, that she was in labor.  

"Oh sweet, Jesus!  I feel the baby!  He's a'comin!"

"Claree, honey - you're not having a baby.  You're having gastric pains.  Please stop yelling.  You're frightening the other patients."

"Oh Lordy!  It's a'coming!  The heads crownin'  I know when I'ma having a baby.  I've had plenty to know!"

"Claree Day, sweetie!  Pleeease!"

In a voice that sounded like a broken needle being scratched over an old 45 recording, Grace, an ancient, wrinkled resident crounched across Claree who never uttered more than two words grumbled hoarsley, "Will someone tell her to hurry up and have the baby already!  She ruining my God Damned oatmeal!"  

*names have been changes for privacy purposes