Posted: August 1, 2007 in Peace

I went to the nursing home yesterday, and of all things, had a blast.

In spite of the fact that my oldest sister taught me the value of nursing home residents when I was a little boy, and in spite of the fact that I’ve been going to see my cool friend, Hezekiah, for years now, I still don’t generally look forward to going. It’s not that I’m scared (anymore), or that I get depressed (anymore). I’m not sure what it is, but I suspect it has something to do with my selfishness.

Anyway, I went to see Hezekiah yesterday.

When I punched the secret button to get in, the first person I saw was Miss Katie. I hadn’t seen Miss Katie in a long time, and I had suspected things weren’t good with her. Miss Katie is an oversized woman with oversized glasses, and her tongue protrudes from her mouth when she’s not talking. And she’s a flirt. She’s forever whispering to me about her boyfriends, telling me she loves me, and generally distraught over some unfortunate lover’s quarrel. She’s something else. It was so good to see her again, and especially good to see her looking so good! Instead of a worsening condition, something good must have been going on with her. She has lost weight and looks healthier than ever. After our hugs, she stopped everyone passing by to introduce me as her friend.

I went out to the smoking porch and found Hezekiah listening to his radio. Well, I found him slumped over sleeping in his wheelchair, but his radio was going. As always, he had a smile for me. And as always, when asked, he told me he was feeling good (which is followed up by telling me that he had dinner and breakfast). I brought him a catalog to look at per his request, something he periodically asks for by saying, “Bring me a book next time.”

On the smoking porch was a man I met last time I came, though I don’t yet know his name. I believe he is in the nursing home at the hands of a stroke. It’s evident that his mind moves slowly, as do his reactions, but he remembered me. In fact, he asked me where my daughter was since she came with me last time. I was touched that he remembered her.

Another gentleman arrived on the smoking porch. He had lost his right leg, and the stump sat uncovered on his wheelchair. I couldn’t help but look, but then I turned and tried not to stare.

Then came the new guy (to me, at least). Talk about a character! He was tall and skinny, and the best way I could describe him would be Richard Pryor on uppers, if you can imagine. He carried a Bible with him and spoke in a combination of jive and gibberish to the cadence of an auctioneer. I commented on the good book he had in his hand, to which he replied, “The best book in the world!” I expected to enter into a good religious discussion, but the rest of the conversation – the parts I could make out – went like this…

“You smoke cigarettes?” he said.
“No, not me.”
“I smoke cigarettes.”

“You drink beer?” he asked.
“No, cigarettes and beer make my tummy feel funny.”
“I drink beer.”
“You do.”
“Yeah. Budweiser.”

Changing the subject, I said, “I came to check on my buddy, Hezekiah. Makin’ sure he’s keeping all the women away!”

We laughed, and then he asked me to bring the women next time.

You can’t buy tickets for entertainment like I get at the nursing home.

When I left the smoking porch, my new friend asked my name and followed me back into the building. Before we parted ways, he gave me a fancy handshake and a hug and asked if I was coming back. I said I sure would, and he reminded me not to forget to bring the women.

Then I saw Mr. Flowers. I’ve never met a kinder person than Mr. Flowers. Every time I go to the nursing home and see him, he always offers me the most gracious smile and asks if I will say a prayer for him. He has always been so positive, but yesterday he said he had been down lately. But he felt like he was starting to overcome. I said a prayer for Mr. Flowers, and as always, he thanked me. But I thanked him yesterday. He inspires me a lot more than I could ever inspire him.

I punched in the code to exit the facility and ended up holding the door open for a sweet old man and his adult grandson who had come to visit. They were both smiling and heading outside to find a shady spot with a breeze. They both looked so happy.

I don’t know why I don’t look forward to going to the nursing home. In more ways than one, it is the neatest place in the whole world. Maybe, after all these years, I’m just beginning to notice.

  1. Ms Pamela says:

    Thanks for sharing your adventure. I love nursing homes too and also find inspiration there. I read once where they were sometimes called (appropriately enough) “heaven’s waiting rooms.”

  2. Danny says:

    Dude looks cool.

    Fess up- did you put the Cardinals cap on him?

  3. Al Sturgeon says:

    Guilty on the Cardinals hat! 🙂

    And thanks, Pamela. That is an appropriate name, huh?

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