Thursday, January 12, 2012

The One That Got Away

The fact that I'm going to watch them die doesn't stop me from loving my old nursing home peeps.

In fact, the more I love an oldie, the more I want to be the one who is sitting with them when they go.

Dolly was 97 when she came to us, so knowing that our time together was likely going to be short, I fell hard and fast in love with her.

She came to us alert and oriented, walking and talking, mostly taking care of herself and damn proud of it. She made sure everyone knew how old she was;

"Can you believe I'm 97?"

"You don't look a day over 87.  And you need to tell me what product you've been using on your face, 'cause I think I have more wrinkles than you."

Her magic potion turned out to be genetic, nothing but plain old Oil of Olay had ever touched her face.

Chatting like girlfriends in her bathroom as she got ready for bed, the fact that she was naked a non issue;

"You had six kids and your boobs look that good?  Really?  I might have to hate you for that."

They were perfect. Like her skin, far nicer than mine.  Her secret?  She'd always worn a bra to bed.

We had things in common.  She was the mother of five daughters and a son.

"I have four sisters and a brother!"

She'd been a nurse her whole life.  She gave me a scrub top she'd worn; tan with pretty embroidered flowers along the neckline.  It's my favorite shirt.

And she liked her alcohol.  When her daughter moved away, she appointed me her procurer of Brandy.

Every couple weeks she sidle up to me, all sneaky like, slip a $20 into my pocket and wink at me.

Entering the facility after a Dolly errand, the director of nurses stopped me in the lobby and questioned the tell tale brown paper bag;

"It's Dolly's Brandy."

"Oh isn't that nice of you."

"Meh. Just making a deposit in the Karma bank. Someone better bring me booze when I'm an old lady."

Whether she was on my assignment or not, every evening I worked, I'd bring her a Brandy on the rocks before supper.

And whether she was on my assignment or not, every evening at 7pm I'd go to her for a hug and a kiss goodnight. Sometimes she'd appear to be sleeping."


"Oh!  I was just laying here, asking the Good Lord to please come and take me in my sleep."

"For you, I hope he does.  For me, I hope I'm here for it."

"Me too."

I'd go in for my hug and get a nose full of vanilla, and Jean Nate and mouthwash.

A kiss on my cheek and "I love you."

She stayed healthy.  She continued to take care of herself.  She turned 98.

I'd taken a week off last summer and late one night I got a message from a nurse friend that Dolly would be gone the following day.

I thought I'd dreamed it, and went about my day.  Then got a panicky feeling and checked my phone.  It wasn't a dream.

I rushed into work. Was already crying when I got to Dolly's room. Handing her a  plastic cup of brandy and sitting on her ottoman with my own;

"It's not supposed to end like this, I don't know how to do this."

She was ready to go though, she insisted it was time.

She'd packed up what was left of her 98 years.  It sat in brown boxes at our feet.

She was going to be near her daughter.  A couple hours away.

So with a hug and a kiss and a clink of blue plastic cups we said our goodbyes.

And I left her feeling I hadn't quite done my job.

I was supposed to be there til the end.  Til her end.

And now I wonder.  Is she gone?   How did she go?

Maybe I should just remember her forever 98. 

With flawless skin.

And the perkiest boobs.


  1. Oh, I love this. What fine nurse -- person you must be. I've always thought that those who care for the elderly are a particular sort -- profoundly particular in the best way.

  2. You are the one that sees them off.
    But this time she was in control and wanted her daughter with her.

    You are so wonderful at what you do.
    One in a million.

  3. This is a good one. xo

  4. Very sweet. I know I say it every time, but I hope there is someone as awesome as you when I finally hit the nursing home. If I knew there would be, I'd look forward to it.

  5. I hope someone will get me my wine when I'm old. WTF is up with your header? email me your password sign in stuff and I'll fix it for you. I'm also up for a redesign whenever you are.

  6. Love it. And her. My boobs are nowhere near where they used to be, but I dream that when I do go, my boobs will be AWESOME in heaven.

  7. I really want you to move here so that you can help me (and my parents) through death. Hopefully it won't be for another 15-20 years. But with the way they both smoke and eat...........

  8. This is absolutely beautiful, Tulpen. I really, really wish more people had someone like you in their lives toward the end.


    You're a very, very good person.

  9. Oh, sweet lady. (You and Dolly.)

    My grandfather turns 93 today.
    Every afternoon at 2:00 he makes himself a martini.

    Then he and my grandmother play cards. On weekends, my mother joins them for games. She's one of the good ones, too.

    Everything about your post made me smile (perky boobs, Jean Nate, scrub tops).

    But the aging of my loved ones makes me sad.

    Coming here, though, reminds me there is beauty in the process. And hope.

    Still. I'm not ready for him (or her or any of us) to go. I suppose that's selfish.

    Either way, it's true.

    p.s. I would bring you booze when you're 98. Except I'm older than you are. So maybe we can just share the same bottle.

  10. I love your patient stories.

    I bet she is happy.

  11. This is one of my favorite stories you have told. Thanks for sharing Dolly with us.

  12. How I love your stories. How wonderful be know these old souls.

    Never stop writing, promise!?!?!?! And I'm with Julie! I'll bring a 5th with me, k?

  13. I wonder if its too late to wear a bra to bed. Probably. I already use Oil of Olay.

    Sounds like Dolly might live until 120.

  14. I wonder if its too late to wear a bra to bed. Probably. I already use Oil of Olay.

    Sounds like Dolly might live until 120.

  15. I got nothing. I don't even have boobs. No really, there's not much there. As always, you gave me pause.

  16. Every time I read one of these you're missing out on being there when they die. I'm sure you've been there for plenty of them though. In spirit(s) if not in flesh.

  17. What a special person you are to take such good care of them. I have a big soft spot for the elderly. So many of them in the homes seem forgotten by many. How wonderful you're there to remember and make them feel loved. :)

  18. This made me want to stomp my foot. NO! It wasn't supposed to end that way!
    I call mine "oldies" too. Love it.

  19. I want you to be there for me when I'm 98. I'm sure I'm a little older than you, so it's totally possible. Though I warn you, my boobs won't be perky.

  20. You rock. As does Dolly, so thanks for letting us meet her through your post. I hope someone shows me such compassion and respect when I'm ready to go, and I hope I'm someone who deserves it.

  21. Sweet story. But sleeping in a bra? Really? Think it's too late?

  22. I really wish you worked in the nursing home we just had to move my Mamaw into. Really.

  23. God how I hope there are folks like you at the place we just put my mom. But do you still like the crotchety selfish nasty tempered ones? I don't know why anyone will be nice to my mom, she is horrible to everyone there. I told her she won't get her pants changed faster by screaming profanity and she actually said she thought she would. I said no one wants to reward bad behavior and she said she thought they would come faster to get her to stop making so much noise. It isn't easy to visit her, I don't know how the nurses and CNAs can care for her. I am so grateful that you can do this work.

  24. That was such a lovely story. I hope someone brings me a nightly cocktail when I'm old. Your patients are lucky to have such a loving person to care for them.

  25. My boobs will never be perky, dammit.

    (And I'm not sure this won't be riddled with typos, as I can hardly see the keyboard from ALL THE TEARS.)

  26. You know when someone is meant to be something?

    That's that, right here.

    Love your posts, Tulpen girl.

  27. I think you did your job phenomenally every day that you spent time caring for her. You were both lucky to have that time together.


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