Ann is 97 years old woman living in a nursing home where I work. She was sitting on her bedside when I entered her room. It looked like she was getting ready for bed, donned with her long pajama dress. She was reaching her feet towards the floor fixing her socks. I offered to help because I did not want her to slip out of bed and knock her head straight onto the floor.
It was time for her eight o’clock medication.
She is hard in hearing that I had to speak close to her ear. The hearing aid she had on bilaterally seemed like it was not helping. I had to let her know every pill she was taking because she inquires all the time and it’s just the way Ann is; and it’s her right to know. She used her thumb and index finger to pick her pills and slowly put it to her mouth one at a time. I watched closely. When she safely swallowed her pills, I quickly moved to exit the room, but she pulled my hand.
She is legally blind but she got me. It was probably my shadow or the angle of where she was sitting or where I was standing that she figured where to find my hand. She softly asked me to sit reassuring me that I won’t get in trouble and she won’t tell anyone that I sat and chat with her. I checked my watch, it was only seven-thirty. I had enough time, besides, two of the residents on my floor were out for a night-time social with other residents.
I sat close to her. My brown hand clasped tightly against her wrinkly 97 years old hand. I’m not describing it in a negative way. It’s just that deep into that wrinkly transparent skin is a fierce spirited petite woman, with a sense of humor and her own view of the world.
I got to know her and laughed out loud for that short period.
I did not ask a lot . I only asked when there were certain words I did not understand. Her wavy and deep voice made it difficult for me to catch up. She would take a lot of pauses too. She asked few personal questions about me – marriage and parenting. I shared a few.
She expressed how important faithfulness is in marriage. She detests married men and women running around for a fling. It ruins everything – life.
She gulped her left over water that I gave with her medication. She would cough a bit.
We were still holding each others hand. It is amazing how life physically changes, I thought, as I look at our hands. My skin is shimmer in brown complexion and someday (not very soon though) will look like hers. She still can hold her glass steadily. I will be grateful if I am mentally sharp as her when I reach her age.
She continued to talk.
She used to work as a waitress and once served in a wedding. When she was working, she gave full attention to it. She was too busy that when it was time to untie her apron, she was having difficulty. She felt somebody’s hand on her back helping her. She turned around. It was a guy whom she knew. A married man. She was not impressed of his intention – to help untie her apron. Instead she told him, “Go home, untie your own wife’s apron.” She said, “that act may not be malicious for this generation but it comes in different form and it was one of those.”
I imagined how prudent she was as a young married woman and I thought it was great.
She used to live with her husband in a small town not close to the city and she had a nephew who would come to visit once in a while. He came one day to personally invite her and her husband for his wedding. He was intrigued how everyone in town knows her. She told him that everyone at the bus stop let her get in and get off the bus first; and it’s just the way it was. She did not know the reason behind it but passengers never minded her going in and out of the bus first.
When her nephew asked for advice about marriage, she told him two things. Save and spend. Saving your hard-earned money for rainy days will keep you out of distress. It gives you peace of mind. Spend what you save when you need it. So simple but right to the point.
Our conversation did not stop right there. Was it really a conversation? We were not exchanging dialogue. I just listened, and it was not a waste of my time at all.
She said, “I can’t believe how demonic humans can be. I heard the news about a little girl who was raped. People who do this crap should go to hell.” She sounded firm and a bit angry.
“If they come to me, I will show them what I can do. I will cut and burn their penises!” This statement cracked me up so hard and excuse me with the language. In life though, that’s how we call it.
That’s Ann, the feisty one.
Do you think I love my job? I do. I did not even have to talk or share all about me. Allowing my time to be consumed by one of this residents is worth it. I know, they’re not nice all the time and they can make us feel terrible nurses. We sometimes are not nice when time is so tight or when things get out of hand. We blame it to the full moon.
“Work while your young, make money and hopefully get rich,” she looked at me. She signaled in our hands that it was time for me to go.
“What will you do with the money if you’re rich?”, I asked.
“With my age, well if I am young, I will go to casinos. I will go to Vegas and gamble,” she said.
“Long time ago, I saved all my pay during winter and spend it in Vegas gambling with my lady friend. I never took cash with me. I would go to the bank and get a traveler’s check,” she added. I don’t know what traveler’s check is so I asked and she tried to explain it to me. I don’t think this generation uses this kind of check. Most of us use debit and credit card.
“Did you win?”, me making conversation this time.
“Oh yeah!…. It was fun. We use nickel, dime, quarters at the casino. I think they don’t do it anymore. They use plastic chips.”
“What did you do with the money you won?”, it was me asking.
“Gamble! What do you think?” I laughed.
She asked me what I will do with the money if I am rich. I told her that I will pay all our debts, as simple as that.
“What will you do with the rest when everything is paid off?”, she insisted.
“What do you think should I do?”, I was hoping to get a great advice from this older woman.
“Gamble!”, she loudly suggested.
I responded that I don’t do all that stuff not even drinking and smoking.
She suggested to buy myself a lot of nice clothes and the things that I really like and have wanted to have.
I said, “I think, I will spend it traveling. I would love that.” She agreed nodding her head. She seemed impressed with my idea.
“I would like to go to bed,” a voice from another resident in that room. It was Anna.
“I guess, I have to go Ann. Anna needs help. You take care when you get home. Avoid falling. Always use your walker and have it close to you all the time. It was great talking to you.” She will be leaving the nursing facility soon.
“I hope you’ll be able to do and enjoy a lot of things. If there’s one thing you wanna do, what would it be?”, I asked.
P.S Time flies so fast and sometimes we realize how much we wasted it. It takes only a minute to make someone happy. Give time to be a good company.