For the theme “Nashville,” Katy Kinard shares tales from her days caring for the elderly.
Nashville… has brought me many Tenx9-type stories before Tenx9 existed.
It’s one thing I love about elderly care. There have been lessons learned, tear-jerking experiences, and memories told to me – and retold. And retold and retold and retold… lol, minds are not quite as sharp in this business… but some of MY favorite memories are the ones that brought spontaneous laughter at the time – and continue to make me laugh to this day.
The first home I was ever sent to was Ms. Addie P. Pepper – a feisty, full-of-life, slightly-irreverent woman who lived with her sister, Charlotte. Charlotte was actually the one declining; she had Alzheimer’s and the sweetest spirit as she’d sit by her upstairs window bellowing the wrong words to old gospel hymns all day long.
Addie and I talked all the time and I loved her. We’d discuss topics ranging from racial inequality to her former sex life, or to somewhat combine the two, she’d sit me down and make me watch “Waiting to Exhale” with her, which was… slightly awkward.
Their pastor would visit once a week, and I can’t forget one of the visits. He opened the door and Addie turned on her “church voice” – which had a great variety of inflections, sounded somehow holier and contained large amounts of syrup. “Praise the Lord, Reverend, so good to see you, come on in.”
“Thank you, Ms. Pepper. I hear Charlotte up there singing the good songs, as usual.”
“Oh yes, Reverend. CHARLOTTE, YOU SING IT OUT, BABY! KEEP ON SINGING THE PRAISES OF OUR LORD. PRAISE HIS NAME, SING IT OUT!”
When they finished visiting, Addie showed him to the door, and no sooner than the bolt was locked – her hand still on the doorknob – she yelled, “SHUT UP, CHARLOTTE! Katy, go get a popsicle out of the freezer and shove it in Charlotte’s mouth. ….(mumble)…Tired of that incessant caterwauling…”
I thought of a fun gift for Addie one Christmas. One of my friends was studying massage therapy and needed clients for practice. I asked her if they were allowed to give massages to people over 80 years old and frail. She said sure, so a couple of weeks later, Addie apparently had the best half hour of her life.
It started out quiet… little moans here and there. But the noises increased and got higher-pitched and more exaggerated and more embarrassing for me sitting out in the waiting room. I felt sorry for my masseuse friend and thought of ways I could mend our friendship over the next…year.
The appointment wrapped up, and Addie’s wiry body marched out of the waiting room and exclaimed, “Baby – that was BETTERTHANSEX! Woooo!”
Addie used to call me her adopted granddaughter.
Charlotte actually outlived her – to my surprise – and I cried as if she was my own grandmother.
Mary is the cutest little southern lady I know – and the most passive aggressive.
But to focus on her cuteness… She likes to make jokes, like when I say, “I need to use the bathroom,” she’ll say, “Bring it back, now!” 😉
I’ve always thought that was funny, but what’s even better is when I say, “I’ll be right back – I’m going to the restroom” – she’ll say “Bring it back!” even though the joke doesn’t apply there. 😀
I told Mary I liked her shoes one day, and she said, “Oh, yeah, I got that down in the holler.”
Me: “In the holler? haha how cute, where’s the holler?”
Mary: “You know, that mall they done had over there a while back. Hickory Holler?…”
She likes the word “poke.” She uses it like:
“My husband… He could grow anything he poked in the ground. Anything he poked in the ground just growed up!!”
“Why don’t you poke that food in the microwave? Just poke it in there, I can eat it for lunch.”
Elderly people crack me up when it comes to saving face. You gotta do it – at all costs – especially when it comes to someone implying that your mind (or eyesight or hearing) is less than sharp.
Mary and I were watching The Price is Right, commenting on Drew Carey:
Mary: “He’s got arthritis in his hands and in his arm – I can tell it hurts him real bad and I know how he feels! My foot gets to hurting; you know, I can tell when it’s gonna rain!”
Me: “Hmm… Why do you think he has arthritis?”
Mary: “The way he’s holding his arm and his hand all crippled up like that, you can just tell he’s in pain.”
Me: “…OHH… haha, well I think he’s actually just holding a little microphone – It kinda blends in with his black jacket, but see, he’s holding the mic down by his stomach because it’s such a tall skinny mic, he can’t hold it close to his face.”
Mary: “Well… I’m not saying I’m a doctor or anything, I’m just saying those are tell-tale signs of arthritis.”
Me: “But… you know what I mean, right? That he’s holding a microphone and that’s why his arm and hands are curved?”
Mary: “Well… neither one of us are doctors. I’m not saying I know for SURE, I’m just saying.”
One of the funniest, most surprising cases of “saving face” happened with one the sweetest elderly women I’ve ever known – Edith. She had declining dementia, and sometimes we had to guide her choices.
Her son and I were helping her with dinner when we realized she had picked up her crumpled up napkin instead of her roll and brought it to her mouth to eat. We quickly took action:
“Oh no, Edith, that’s your napkin, did you mean to eat the roll instead? See, that’s just your wadded up napkin.”
She looked at the wad, thought for a second, and said, “I know” and took a bite and started chewing.
The most memorable moments seemed to happen at mealtime. She took a drink of tomato soup instead of her coffee (which was in the same kind of plastic mug), and declared, “That’s terrible coffee.”
It was scary one time – Edith was literally choking on a bite of grilled cheese sandwich for nearly 30 seconds, then coughing/slightly choking for a few minutes, eyes watering and face beet red… the nurse, the techs, all of us rushing around her…
Then she paused afterward, like nothing happened.
We’re all staring at her, wide-eyed.
“That tastes good,” she said, and took another bite.
Josh was not elderly. He was only 33 years old and battled a disease that continually formed tumors in his brain. Surgery started getting too risky, as he’d already lost his hearing from one of them, and because the new tumors would push against different places in his brain, it started permanently affecting mobility, eyesight, sense of touch… I truly thought of Josh as the modern day Job – if there ever has been one.
Josh had a quick wit, though, loved sarcasm, and was even a bit flirtatious; he usually spoke at a normal volume, despite his lack of hearing.
One day, Josh was taking a nap, and I was quietly reading a book in the chair beside the bed. The house was empty and the only sound was a couple of chirping birds outside the window.
I had never heard Josh talk in his sleep before, and he never snored, so you can imagine how high I jumped in my chair when I heard:
“Ready!… Aim!… FIIIIRE!!” (hand in the air to command troops)- right back to sleep.
In the words of a recent hymn, I can’t wait to “laugh on glory’s side” with these friends that have gone on before me – and all the new friends that Nashville will send my way.