Do you still call the retirement center the nursing home? Is it a retirement village, or an assisted living center or just a human storage unit?
I don't know. I do know the people who work in these places routinely do the best they can with the end stroke off life's keyboard. I think it must be the very hardest kind of work.
One of our folks is in such a place right now. She had back surgery, needs some rehab and went to a very nice rehab center/nursing home/retirement village/storage unit. She will be out in a few weeks, ready for another 100,000 miles.
This is not so for many of the people in the center. They will be there until they go somewhere else, some place not of this world.
In my never ending pursuit of kn0wledge that is not cliche, I walked each hall of the nursing center Tuesday before I started to look for my friend's room. I started down one hall and walked it to the end, looking right and left as I passed the staggered rooms, making sure to notice each fellow being, this one on a walker, the next in a wheelchair.
Every one has something to offer. If they could tell their stories, if they could remember, each one could strike a note in the mind, strum across the heart's strings. After awhile the stories would be repetitive, one supposes, but in each there would be first memories, favorite pets, fitful loves.
I noticed the eyes, for they are, as you know, the window to the soul. Each little woman, each dessicated man, favored me with a piercing stare. In refugee camps, observers talk about a "two hundred mile stare," in the eyes of the sufferers. In the nursing center, those who dwell near the end of life do not have a two hundred mile stare. They have a penetrating look, as if, by staring intently, they can transform you into someone who looks just for them.
I wondered then, as I wonder now, how long they glare into the hall, just past the door, every time footsteps come down the hall? I wonder how long they look for someone to look for them before they stop looking at all.
I don't know yet.
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