All The Single Ladies (Continued)
My nursing specialty was geriatrics, which I'd gravitated toward because I enjoyed older people. Senior citizens are virtual treasure troves of lessons about life and the world. They hold a wealth of knowledge on a variety of subjects, many of which would have never been introduced to me if not for the residents of Palmetto House. The truth be told, those people might be the last generation of true ladies and gentlemen I'd ever know. They are conversationalists in the very best sense of the term. The time when polite conversation about your area of expertise was a pleasure to hear, I am afraid, is gone. These days young people speak in sound bites laced with so many references to pop culture that confuse me. The English language is being undermined by texting and the Internet. LOL. ROTFLMAO. BRB. Excuse me, but WTF? TY.
There was a darling older man, Mr. Gleason, long gone to his great reward, who would exhaust himself trying to explain the glories of string theory and the nature of all matter to me. To be honest, his explanations were so far over my head he could have repeated the same information to me like a parrot on methamphetamine and it never would have sunk into my thick head. But it made him so happy to talk about the universe and its workings that I'd gladly listen to him anytime he wanted to talk.
"You're getting it, you're getting it!" he'd say, and I would nod.
No, I wasn't.
I had a better chance with Russian history, wine, Egyptian art, astronomy, sailboat racing, the Renaissance, engineeringwell, maybe not engineering, but there were Eastern religionsand a long list of different career experiences among the residents. Whenever I had a few extra minutes, it was a genuine pleasure to sit with them and listen to their histories. I learned so much. And just when things were running smooth as silk, believe it or not, there was always one man who'd have someone from beyond our gates slip him a Viagra or something else that produced the same effect. This old coot would go bed hopping until he got caught in the act or until the ladies had catfights over the sincerity and depth of his affection. Then Dr. Black, who ran Palmetto House, would have to give Casanova a chat on decorum even though his own understanding of the term might have been somewhat dubious. What did he care? The evenings would be calm for a while until it happened again. The staff would get wind of it and be incredulous (read: hysterical) at the thought of what the residents were doing. I'd get together with the other nurses and we'd all shake our heads.
"You have to admire their zest for living," I'd say.
Then someone else would always drop the ubiquitous southern well-worn bomb: "Bless their hearts."
Like many senior facilities we had a variety of levels of care from wellness to hospice and a special care unit for patients with advanced dementia. About half of our residents enjoyed independent living in small, freestanding homes designed for two families. They frequented the dining room and swimming pool and attended special events such as book clubs, billiards tournaments, and movie nights. They used golf carts to visit each other and get around. As their mobility and their faculties began to take the inevitable slide, they moved into the apartments with aides and then single rooms with nursing care where we could check on them, bring them meals, bathe and dress them, and of course, be sure their medications were taken as prescribed. For all sorts of reasons, our most senior seniors were often lonely and sometimes easily confused. But the old guys and dolls always perked up when they had a little company. It was gratifying to be a part of that. Improving morale was just a good thing. The other perk was that the commute from my house to Palmetto House was a breezy fifteen minutes.