posted on Feb, 2 2014 @ 09:19 PM
I work at a nursing home. It's nothing fancy. It's small, humble and to be honest, we don't have the best decor. My job title isn't fancy either.
I'm a dietary aide, which isn't even really a very apt name. I'm not a dietitian, nor am I an "aide" to anyone. It's the prestigious title given
to dishwashers and dining room servers.
My job is fairly simple. Simple...and sometimes frustrating. Some days require a lot of motivation to pull myself out of bed to do a job that frankly,
I didn't see myself having as a mid-20 something. No, it isn't the job title that makes me go in. It isn't the respect bestowed upon dishwashers
everywhere, and it certainly isn't the pay. It's the people.
There's all different kinds of people. Some like to complain... like Tom. Tom is a mid 60 something man with a penchant for fine foods. And Tom tasks
us with an impossible feat every morning...make the perfect egg. I've tried and I can't do it. He tells me he needs a chainsaw to cut through my
Some are demanding... like Ruby. Ruby is a small, spectacled woman who cannot possibly weigh more than 90 lbs (6.4 stone), yet I have sat and watched
her eat four jelly sandwiches in a matter of minutes. Ruby will threaten you with a cane if you try to take them away before she's finished.
And others...well others are like Glenn. I met Glenn when he was 83. He had a special wheelchair, one that looked like it had been cobbled together
out of a lawn chair and riding mower tires. He wore a "Respect a Vet" trucker hat and even at 5:30 AM, I never saw him without it. Glenn had served
in the Army, and under his long sleeve sweatshirt you could see bits and pieces of faded military themed tattoos. He was quiet and never demanding.
It took a month to win him over. I would bring him an extra apple juice when I would see him running low, and sometimes I'd open the sugar packets
for his cornflakes if a nurse hadn't gotten around to it yet. He responded with a simple "thank you" and that would be the end of it. This went on
for a while until one day he responded differently. He reached up and took my hand and told me he was afraid of dying. That then became our routine.
If I spoke to him and asked him how he was, or if he was having a good day, he would tell me he knew he was close to death and how scared that made
him. I could never console him. If I started to he would wave his hand and tell me I didn't need to waste my time with a "crazy old man". Yet
everyday this situation replayed itself.
When you're there almost daily, you notice who has family and who doesn't. Some have family that visit everyday, multiple times a day. Others that
visit once a month. Others even less than that. They're probably busy with work, and kids and school. Maybe it's too hard on them to see a
grandparent or parent in that kind of situation. Maybe they didn't have a great relationship and it's simply hard to see a parent at all. Either
way, in the year I knew Glenn, he never had a single visitor. Not on Christmas or his birthday. Not on Memorial Day or 4th of July. Glenn was alone.
That is until he was taken from our facility for about a month. His family came to pick him up and they drove him to a medical treatment facility. I
didn't know why or if I would even see him again. He had simply vanished. I did see him again, although now I almost wished I hadn't.
His family had moved him to a hospital with physicians that could facilitate in taking him off medications he needed for brain cancer. I don't know
the reason for their removal, whether a financial burden they couldn't shoulder any longer, or whether it was ordered by his doctors, but Glenn
deteriorated quickly after that.
I remember the first day he came back to the home. I took him an apple juice and was informed he was moved to a special dining time for assisted
feeders. He could no longer drink his apple juice without a nurse. He stared at me blankly and I asked him if he was okay. He reply was "help me".
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and that was all he ever said. "Help me", he pleaded. Sometimes he got frustrated and screamed it. Other
times he included colorful vocabulary as he spewed an angry "HELP ME G-- D--- it!" But the phrase was never altered too much.
Glenn died alone. We didn't make a courtesy cart with coffee and snacks for his family, because none of them attended his final days. His obituary,
unlike the others that often include heart warming memories, or a fond look back at the deceased's life, was void of anything but fact. Facts like
'he is survived by a brother, two sons, a daughter and over 20 grandchildren'...none of whom ever visited in the year that I knew Glenn. His picture
is not one taken at home, or by relatives. It was a picture of him, in that tractor like wheelchair under the fluorescent glow of nursing home lights.
Glenn was my friend, a friend that unfortunately I couldn't help when he asked. A friend that was afraid of dying. A friend that loved apple juice
and chocolate milk and only liked cornflakes for dinner. He was a vet. Glenn was my friend and he was deserving of more remembrance than he was given
in his obituary. Glenn is someone I was happy to have known and am happy to introduce to anyone that is willing to read.