It is two a.m. and the Nursing Home halls are quiet and dim. I walk through the first floor, looking in each room to make sure my charges are resting easy. I pass the nursing station, nod and smile in silent greeting, walk on down the other wing of the floor.
I come to Tommy’s room, he’s awake in bed, whimpering. Tommy was Thomas
when he came here to live. Then he became Tom and now he is Tommy.
He’s not really aware of where he is any more. It hurts me to see that. I go in and sit beside him. He likes me to do that, it seems to bring him comfort. Soon he is asleep again, resting at peace. That makes me feel good, let’s me know that I do matter around here.
Back to the nursing station and push the button to summon the elevator. My colleagues are down the hall helping Norma into bed after the hourly trip to the bathroom. I wave with my head to them as the elevator door whispers open, get on and press the button for the second floor. Up on “Two”, I check with the staff working there and they tell me how the night is going. I walk down the North wing. Everybody seems to be OK. Out the door onto the terrace.
The nights are turning warmer and it’s clear and beautiful out here tonight. Two of Ginny’s grown grandkids are standing out here, sneaking a smoke. I give them my best stern look and we laugh. They tell me how Ginny seems to be more “there” tonight. Ginny has just had hip replacement surgery. She has lot’s of kids and grandkids that try to share time so that “Gins” is never alone, that she always knows they’re there for her. Nice Family.
I go in and head down the South wing. Ina is reading, she doesn’t sleep much. She likes war novels. Can you believe that? Here is this 91 year old woman, hair primly “up” for the night, commanding fleets and armies courtesy of Tom Clancy and W.E.B Griffin. I get the latest about how we SHOULD have resolved the thing with China about them holding our Navy plane crew. I agree. Hey, do you think I’m going to argue with a woman who thinks she’s Robert E. Lee, The Duke of Wellington AND William Wallace all rolled into one? Ina’s a trip. I take my leave of her, renewing my promise to watch the latest Horatio Hornblower installment on the A&E Network this Sunday night.
I go down to 211. Nanny has this room. She’s almost ready to leave here. She’s comfortable tonight. Nanny has a “private duty” care giver. Nice guy. Nanny’s two sons and her two oldest grandkids are here tonight. That’s good to see. All too often when one of our residents gets ready to leave, nobody comes to sit with them and help them prepare for the trip.
Nanny’s guy steps out into the hall with me and because she has her family there, joins me as I complete my rounds. The Duke lives in 228 B. His real name is Harold but nobody EVER calls him anything but “The Duke”. The Duke’s another of our “characters”. He pretends to be an old curmudgeon but he’s really an old sweetie. The Duke sees us and he goes into his routine about: “How can a guy get a little rest in this joint with every (blank) (blank) body parading by every (blank) (blank) ten minutes?”We go into his room. The Duke’s room is a double but we try not to give him a room mate Nanny’s guy and The Duke exchange a High 5 and he gives me his usual little kiss and pat. All the girl’s working the Floor say you got to watch The Duke, he’s got “fast hands”. He’s another insomniac and has his coin collection spread out all over the vacant bed in his room.
The Duke was in the Navy and has coins from all over the world. Each coin has a story and if you don’t mind the frequent themes of bars, fights and the many ladies that have graced The Duke’s life, the stories are fascinating. We leave The Duke’s room so “A guy can get a little rest and maybe, if you don’t keep thundering back and forth all night, a little (blank) (blank) sleep!” I love The Duke.
We get back to room 211, touch cheeks and my friend goes back to Nanny’s side. I walk Nanny’s grandkids down the hall and ride the elevator with them. I tell them to be careful driving home at this hour. That grandson of Nanny’s drives like every road is a Speedway. I watch them drive off, gravel flying. St. Christopher must work overtime when that boy is on the road.
Well, time for me to take a break. The kitchen crew will be in soon, I’ll be supervising breakfast. As always. This is a really full, full time job. I’ve no complaints though. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
A little over a year ago I was really down and out. My family had broken up and it looked like I wasn’t going to have much of a future. When you think about it, I’m lucky to be alive at all. I have no complaints now.
I’m needed here and valued for what I bring to the job.
My name is Angel. I’m a 5 year old, female (spayed, natural ears, docked tail), White Boxer. A former owner surrender. Today I’m a full time, Resident Therapy Boxer in a Nursing Home in New Jersey. Thanks for letting me share my story with you.
The Following are Notes from Author, Jim Papworth:
“Angel really exists. I wrote this story the night before last while I sat with my Mom in the Nursing Home and after watching Angel work. The residents portrayed; Tommy, Ina, Ginny, Norma and The Duke are real and are fair examples of some of the wide range of people who now call this home, Home. Nanny of course is my Mom and Caesar is truly Nanny’s “private duty care giver”.
“Angel does make her “rounds” each and every night. She does it “solo”, has the run of the residence and uses the elevator. She can open doors on her own. When I’m with my Mom, Caesar will go along with her for a time, helping her to check up on her “charges”. She is always supervised but not closely.
“She has earned the very special trust she now enjoys. Besides her night rounds, Angel works with the physical therapists as an Animal Assisted Therapy Dog during the day. Her main job though is to bring comfort and joy to people who all too often have none of that in their lives. She’s very, very good at her job.”