Wednesday, March 12, 2008

check-in at VT

i spent many years working closely with various youth groups. in my experience, one of the most valuable group bonding tools was what we called *check-in.* we'd go around the room or the campfire and each person would tell a little about themselves or their week, depending on the situation. the adults in the group would have their moment to speak/share, too. that's a real important element of the group's dynamic. everyone gets to show they're human. everyone shares. everyone bonds.

when i went to visit mom this morning, Opal, an aide in the alzheimer's unit, had everyone gathered in the common room. they were each telling a little about themselves. well, some were - the ones who could remember where they were born, how many kids they had or what they did for a living. it was pretty cool. Opal would prompt them and seemed to know their very personal histories well. i wondered how often they did this exercise. the residents surely weren't aware if they'd ever done it before. hahahaha
learning something new every day has an entirely different meaning to one with alz than it does to the rest of us.


i've always liked her. she's a happy, friendly sort. but i've never known much about her before today. after everyone else had told their stories, she briefly told hers.

17 brothers and one sister. (her mother was a housewife.) 2 daughters and a son who has been in iraq for 4 years. Opal's worked at vickery towers for 13 years. took care of her mother who had alzheimer's for 8 years, 7 months and 8 days. said she'd get off work at 2:00 (she still does) and pick her mom up at adult day care by 2:20 every day. she said it wasn't easy, but she did it til the end. i wanted to hug her right about then.

Opal told mom and the rest of them she wasn't there just to make sure they bathed and ate. she was there to help them bathe and make sure they ate...and to make sure they smiled. she said somethin' like, "laughter's the best medicine you can get." they nodded and i thought how lucky they all were to have a caretaker like her.

then she said something we've all heard before. she said, "smile and the world......cry and you......"

i suspect she's said it a time or two before to the folks in that room because they all responded, filling in the blanks appropriately. and that's not a gimme for one with alz. ya know?
i'll go back later and take opal's picture so i can post it here. i'm guessing her smile will make you feel good, too.

oh &, i almost forgot.
i wasn't there when mom said her piece, but i got a hint of some of what she'd said afterwards when opal came up to me with a big grin and said, "you must be OOPS!"
i said, no ma'am, that's my little brother. i was the youngest of 3 for 15 years before the "oops" came along.


Annie said...

Opal's mother was a saint! Opal is too. I'm glad you have people like her with your Mom.

cornbread hell said...


¸.•*´)ღ¸.•*´Chris said...

Opal sounds like an angel. Hugs to you, my friend. You are such a wonderful son.

rainbowheart said...

Can I borrow a Kleenex? Opal is an angel. I am so happy that your Mom has someone "to help them to bathe and to make sure they ate." That is very rare in the nursing home setting. This world needs more Opal's. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I see that you are still wearing the neck brace...Take care and have a good weekend....

rilera said...

Thanks for posting about Opal. It takes a special person to help those with Alzheimer's. Opal sounds like one of them. She is an angel. And you my friend, you are a good son. I'm glad your Mom has you. BTW, I'm the 'oops' in my family though I'm only 5 years younger than my next sib.

~Betsy said...

Opal is one of the angels on earth folks we all pray we find for our LO's. She is a wonderful woman. I'm so glad your mom and the other residents have her.

BTW, I have always known I was an oops. It's a fact of life when you're adopted! :)

cornbread hell said...

chris, gale, robyn, betsy...there are angels all around us.

and the coolest part to me is that they're real, like opal is real.
not just some metaphysical stuff or nonsense, but real live human bean angels.