Sunday, September 21, 2014

Notes from the Nursing Home



The other morning I walked into the dining room at the nursing home and saw Ella sitting at Nasreen's table. 

Ella is a spunky 90 year old originally from Latvia. She always has a smile on her face and a glow about her I can't quite describe. Years ago as a missionary she ventured into Stalinist Russia at her own peril. Nasreen is an elderly Iranian stroke survivor who was raised much like a princess in the old country. Listening to her boss the aides around it's obvious Nasreen is used to having people wait on her. No matter.  She is a generous and affectionate lady.  I like her a lot. The aides do too.

It was clear that these two, with their hearing issues and very different accents, had managed to discuss something important over breakfast.
I caught the last thing Ella said before she left the table. 

“Always remember” she said pointedly to Nasreen, her face serious and close, “You are a precious child of God!”

“Thank you.” Nasreen bobbed her head of dyed hair and smiled broadly with her new dentures. As Ella wheeled herself away she thanked her again. 

After breakfast I helped  Grandma back to bed,  put the amplifying headphones over her ears and read to her. Lately we've been reading poems but I like to start with a Bible story and a psalm or two.  About halfway through the first book of Mark Grandma’s eyes closed and she drifted off to sleep.  I finished the chapter anyway then sat in silence, thinking I’d pick up my knitting and quietly work on it for the remainder of my visit.

Her sudden outburst surprised me both in its authoritative tone and volume. I stared with a stupid smile on my face as she broke the silence by reciting:

“Thank you God for all I care
For things to eat and things to wear
For Mother, Father, good and kind
Please help me always to mind
Like Jesus, in whose name I pray.”

“What a sweet prayer!” I said. “Where did you learn that?” 

“I used to say it when I was a little girl." she said, eyes still closed. "My mother must have taught it to me.” Then she drifted off to sleep.

I wanted to write down what she had said but I didn’t have a pen and my  startled brain wouldn’t wrap around all the words.  I assumed it was a common old prayer I could find online but the snippets I later googled yielded nothing.  I called my sister but the phrases I related to her didn’t sound familiar.  I worried Grandma might die -or worse- that the words might disappear into the recesses of her mind during the night and remain hidden forever before I had a chance to get them down on paper.
 
In the morning I was prepared and she was alert.  I asked her about the prayer and as she recited it I wrote it down.

“My, that was a long time ago.” Grandma said.  ‘I remember a lot from when I was a little girl.”

“That’s because you still are that little girl.” I told her.  “A few years have passed between then and now, that’s all.”

“Nearly 100 years! I'm almost 104, you know." and Grandma shook her head, amazed again at her own longevity.

When it was time to go I left her sleeping in her bed by the window like I always do but today my departure felt different. Today I walked out with something I didn’t have when I walked in-something my grandma had had since she was a little girl.  I secured the prayer in my purse like a piece of jewelry and carried it with me out the door.

On my way down the hall I said good bye to Nasreen and Ella. These ladies are still the little girls they were, too-  Nasreen waited upon by her father’s servants, splendidly dressed in Persian finery; Ella playing in the dust in the doorway of her Latvian home,  her parents telling her the same Bible stories I read to my grandmother. 

Children, all of them. Old, wrinkled children. Precious children of God.

1 comment:

Storybook Woods said...

Beautiful beautiful post. I love how you saw right to the heart of these women xox Clarice