Tag Archives: elderly

I know you’re on the inside . . . lookin’ out.

Many years ago, I found a picture of my godfather giving me a gift.

Papa Danny

It’s weird, because it isn’t a book.  He and his wife always gave me books.  She was a librarian, he was a teacher.  The book I most remember, because I read it roughly 50,000 times, and because I still own it today, its edges worn and frayed, its hard cover that maybe used to be black now some sort of greenish-grey, was Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic.

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The weight of the weather upon us

For most of the time I lived in London, I worked in hostels with young people.  All of them were without a fixed address for some reason or another when they came to us.  Some were fleeing violence in their countries of origin, trying to get their status fixed as refugees and asylum-seekers.  Some were just coming out of prison, or had just come from care homes (modern-day orphanages for the bigger kids).  Some had been rough sleeping, or spending a few days on one couch and a week on another, carrying everything they owned in a backpack now tearing at its seams.  As I’ve written before, it’s never not complicated.

At any rate, there we were, staff and young people, under one roof, which was now some sort of abode.  For some of them, I know it was terrible.  For others, I think it might have been the safest place they’d ever laid their heads at night.  Everybody’s experience is different.  And all of them were different from one another.  There were young men and young women.  There were people of all ethnic backgrounds, all religions.  And while they all fell into one age category (16-25), let me tell you:  there’s a mighty big difference between 16 and 25.  About the only thing they had in common was that life had gotten really hard, really early on.

But for all the many differences among the young people living there, there were two more things they shared:  the roof over their head, and their postal code.  That last one meant a lot of things, but for purposes of this post, it meant that they shared something that affects us all so profoundly:  weather.

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Old folks, new gig

At Maison Nazareth, the nursing home where I’ve recently started volunteering, the dinner tables are arranged in a peculiar and very sensible way.

At the first table sit the five most able-bodied of the dozen currently living in this particular wing of the facility.  They can feed themselves, a great relief to the nurses at mealtime.

The second table has only two settings:  one for a woman I don’t yet know so well who is wheelchair bound, the other for Sister S, one of two nuns that live there.  This table is, from what I can gather, for the naughtiest of the bunch.  While both are fully capable of feeding themselves, they can be a bit higher maintenance.

It seems – and mind, I’m not always right about this stuff because I can’t always understand the French – that the woman in the wheelchair likes, for example, to drink her soup out of her water cup.  There are nurses who understand this, and there are those who don’t.  The ones who neglect to put her soup in her cup are rewarded with her trademark surprise:  she uses her water cup to scoop soup out of the bowl and onto the table.  She’s unable to utter a word, and does this so silently that it’s often not until she’s made quite a mess that anyone notices.  That is, of course, if Sister S is playing along.  Normally Sister S can’t help but tattle-tail at the top of her lungs, though.

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