Part One Click Here to Read first
This time I was staying a little late at the nursing home after a long day-shift. I had agreed to stay until dinner was all cleaned up. The supervisor had placed me on the "area" of the nursing home I had only worked once before, way back in May. But this time they put me down a different hall simple because of who I was covering on this shift.
I didn't even quite remember what Lily looked like. I sat quietly to feed a woman that didn't speak a work to me - although she stared at me intensely. She couldn't speak and was sort of out of it... she needed full assistance. I sat to feed her dinner and as I stared back into her lost gaze I lost myself in thought. I was thinking that I have been so busy in the garden being creative I haven't had much time to write... then I remembered the story I wrote about Lily. Ohhh wait, she might eat up here, it was an option for her. I looked around the room and none of them were Lily. Some of them were familiar but none of them were Lily. She either ate in her room or she was one of those ladies at the big puzzle table eating. I had helped set up over there but I hadn't thought to look at their faces at that time... I will have to take a moment to look when I am done.
Soon my attention was drawn to the table conversation among caretakers and the ladies sharing funny comments about men, since one of the caretakers had just answered a lady's question about when she was going to get married. I always find this gender conversation familiar yet uncomfortable. Its a weird place to be in, but sometimes I get what their saying. Other times I want to say "Well not all men are like that." or "well if you would simply express what you REALLY want you might actually get it. guys are just easy." This time it was about one of the lady's ex husbands and she was saying how marriage was best for creating offspring. LOL... I always find this feminist POV fascinating and the woman in me loves it.
I glanced over at the corner where the men sat... they all sat in silence and watched the game. I often wonder if any of those men are bored and wish they were over here with the ladies. Why is this generation so sexist? What will it be like to young people taking care of me?
Finally it was time to clean up and I rushed through all the tables and worked my way around the dining room along with everyone else to clean up all the dishes and walk the nursing home residents back to their rooms. Finally after some monkeying around with the other employees to burn off a little steam I looked around. Not much left I just need to clean off that puzzle table, where I didn't really look at the ladies with their backs to the room. There was only one lady left at the table and she has dishes there, she has just pushed them to the side and continued with her puzzle. I looked down real close and realized I had discovered Lily sitting and putting together a puzzle, all by herself.
I squatted down in front of her and said, "Hey there Lily! How are you?"
She answered just as society had taught us, "I am good. How are you?"
I answered practiced with "I am having a great day Lily." and then continued sincerely, "Have you done all these puzzles?" I pointed around the table at the dozen or so puzzles already put together of everything from wild animals to abstract designs, some big - some small.
She mumbled a "Yup." and then went right into "What is the meaning of life?" and she turned away to look through the puzzle pieces.
My feet had fallen asleep because of the way I was squatted so I stood up and looked for a chair.... there was none, simply because everyone used wheelchair's around here.
Standing I said, "I don't know Lily, can you tell me?"
She found the piece and turned with a huge smile on that troll like face. I squatted to get a better look. Her eyebrows had grown into the center of her eyes and she had several long hairs growing from around her eyes and mouth. Her face was troll like with a sort of "old witch" feeling. She was wearing some sort of "dutch" type cap on her head. It was perfectly attached to the top of her hair that was tied up into a bun. She was wearing a plain blue dress that I suspected she made about 10 years ago along with an apron type cover that had no frills, just plain white. Very plainly dressed with that cap meant she was likely dutch or Mennonite, maybe even Amish.
She said, "Take a guess and she placed the piece into the puzzle."
I smiled and almost with sarcasm said, "I don't know Lily? Is it puzzle?
She looked up from the puzzle and smiled so large she showed her teeth and she said, "Right., Good Job! What is life? Life is a puzzle. Life means puzzles."
Then she looked at me with hopeful eyes and said, " What does life do?"
She looked away from me and down at the table to examine more pieces in the puzzle.
I thought for a minute and she looked at me again with hopeful eyes. Holding her puzzle piece she looked up at me just as a teacher would and said, "It begins with the letter T"
I thought for a minute... what do puzzles do? Well .... wait, she's a teacher. Puzzles teach... it must be teach.
I looked at her like the smart student whom knew she had the right answer and said, "Is it teach, Lily?" and for the moment one of the dietary people came over to clear the cup I hadn't cleared because I was talking to Lily. I was a little embarrassed to be having this game with her as she was obviously an Alzheimer's patient and I knew that it would be seen as a bit strange to be holding a rational conversation with someone like her. But I truly love their world and I want to hear more... I hope he leaves fast. He comes and goes fast as if he doesn't even see us, as if she quickly cloaked us.
He walked away and she looks at me and says, "Great job! That's right! Life teaches. Its a lesson. What have you learned?" and just as I was thinking about her question and trying to form an answer... she says just as she did the first time I met her.
"What is the meaning of life?"
Ohhh here is the repetitive questions for the Alzheimer's patients... there is a loop. She talks in circles, likely....
I had to go. A woman behind me demanded my attention, she wanted to go back to her room. She was so grateful I pushed her back... I was happy to have made her day. She blessed me and I walked towards the time clock.
I was so excited... I knew the meaning of life. Now what?