Snippets from the Home...

I slip into the dining room of the nursing home last Thursday afternoon, hoping to catch up on some paperwork and walk in on the "reality awareness enhancement" group. My favorite activity leader, a strong woman with a deep committment to her "family" as she calls the residents, is summing up the point of her lecture.

She leans forward, placing the book she's been reading from on her laps, facing the group of elderly patients before her. Mary is one tough cookie. She doesn't take any crap off the residents but manages somehow to baby and cajole them into finding something worth living for in what has become for most of them, a miserable existence.

She doesn't pity. She loves, bullies, rants...and today, she is preaching.

"So you listen to what I'm tellin' you. Ain't nothin' in this world easy. It's work. Life is hard but nothin' worth havin' comes easy."

I survey the crowd, those who are still awake, and spot Sara. She's paying attention but she's frowning. Her hands are twisted together in her lap as she peers over her glasses at Mary. Trouble is brewing. Delicious, lively, spirited trouble...an uprising from within the ranks.

I love uprisings- especially old people uprisings.

Mary hasn't noticed the murmurings of her loyal pack. But there are definate rumblings. They want Bingo, not reminders of how hard life is.

"Think about it," Mary says. "Who were the first people who taught us about living?"

"Our parents?" Someone answers tentatively. I am sure this is just what Mary's looking for, but oh no.

Mary frowns. "No. The first people to teach us anything about surviving in this world was the frontiers. They taught us how to plant crops and hunt. And it was hard. Remember what I told you. Nothin' good comes without that hard, hard work!"

And that is all it takes.

Sara slaps her hands down on either side of her wheelchair. "Yeah, and where did all that hard work get them Indians? Uh-huh! What they got to show for it now, huh? Taught them pioneers everything they knew and look what happened!"

If I had been carrying pom-poms, I would've been up doing the Break-Out cheer. Old People- 1, Nursing Home Staff- Zero.

"Okay, okay," Mary says, nonplussed. "Them frontiers was hard working people too, just like your parents..."

But it was too late. The revolutionaries were on the move..."I told you we should've been playing bingo," one grumbled. "All this talking, talking, talking," another one grumbled. "I'm going to go get me a nap."

And away they rolled.

But they're a forgiving bunch. They'll be right back in that dining room next Thursday at 2:30, and so will I.

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