123Valerie Strikes Again

Unprecedented Self-Indulgence.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Nursing Old Wounds

When I was 15, I volunteered at a local nursing home. We had to take Carolina back roads to get there, and my Dad capitalized on the opportunity by trying to teach me how to drive in our cobalt blue '93 Ford Taurus.

While driving was exhilarating, what I remember most was being happy to finally get to the nursing home. I suppose my Dad would say the same.

I didn't do anything at the nursing home, really—just talked to the folks, or rather listened to them talk. About their kids, parakeets, husbands, gardens, Pat Sajak—whatever and whoever was on their minds.

Though enjoyable in its way, as non-essential as my post seemed during the six or so months that I did it, the value really came back to me when my own Mama went into to a nursing home eight years later.

Even though she was a good 20 years younger than the youngest of the nursing home set, I found that the only thing any of the folks there, my Mama included, wanted was for someone to listen to them. To stories about their kids, their parakeets, their husbands, their gardens, Alex Trebek—whatever and whoever was on their minds.

I was really fortunate that I was just down the road from my Mama's nursing home during those months and that she eventually decided she wanted to go home nine months later. Some people never leave.

I don't even like to think about how weird my experience was as a 23-year-old who had to visit her mother in a nursing home, because I can't even imagine how weird it was to be a 55-year-old woman whose 23-year-old daughter was visiting her in a nursing home. It's all relative.

During her life, my Mama touched people: quite literally as a talented massage therapist and emotionally as someone who cared about the hearts and lives of her clients. Hearing her clients' stories at her funeral made my grieving heart sing. The song was low and sad and wavering, but still.

More than her dying, it hurt recalling the months and years of watching my Mama give up on life.

I wish I had a point here. I don't.

I'm mostly just feeling sorry and sad for myself on this rainy April night. Missing my Mama. Worried about my sister. Concerned that my niece and nephews may someday be in the same position. Trying to figure out the best way to make sure that none of us ever has to worry about this sort of thing again.

Thank goodness it's spring.

In the Comments section, tell me about what you're worried.



  • At 11:35 PM , Blogger WendyB said...


  • At 10:41 AM , Blogger Akelamalu said...

    Hi Honey, I haven't been around for a while but thought I'd just pop in to see you. I am over the age your Mom was when she was in the nursing home and your post made me think seriously about if/when the time comes that I should need to go into a home. I would hate for my boys to have to do what you did, bless you for being a good daughter. x

  • At 11:36 AM , Blogger pistols at dawn said...

    Worrying about future worrying, while incredibly post-modern, is also a zero-sum game in which, like Tic-Tac-Toe, the only winning move is not to play.

    And while it's already essentially been said, all anyone can ask for in such a situation is to be treated with a little kindness and dignity, and I have no doubt you did more than your fair share of that for your mom and the others.

  • At 2:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    At this very moment, 123Val, I am worried to bits that my house smells like fish guts. Why, why oh why, of all times to fertilize the house plants, does my husband choose two days before house guests arrive?

    Both of my mother's parents went into nursing homes. My mom has told me repeatedly, "when I get that bad, take me out to a corn field and leave me."

    I was very touched by your writings today.

    Life. G-cuss

  • At 2:25 PM , Blogger Kristin said...

    I'm worried about almost everything. I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning.

  • At 5:31 PM , Blogger Suze's Sass said...

    Such a nice post.

  • At 9:21 PM , Blogger WendyB said...

    I would love to see you in NYC, Val. Email me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com.

  • At 11:21 PM , Blogger amber. said...

    I worry about everything. About genetically modified food. About my carbon footprint. About whether or not my son will grow up to like himself. About how "thin" seems to escape me by more and more distance every year.

    Beautiful, touching post. Thank you.


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