where pig s are sizzle ing by

Robin Gornell

On August 28, 1976, our family moved from Buffalo, NY to Elkhorn, NE. I was 17 and starting my senior year of high school. Almost immediately I began working at Golden Years Nursing Home, just around the corner from my house. It was the thing to do, apparently, as many of my new-found friends worked there, too.

I loved it. It was hard, physical work taking care of those that couldn't care for themselves. It was more than a job, it was my personal responsibility to care for these people as if they were a family member. It was what I would want if one of the residents was my mother or father. Which of course always brought me to the question, "Will my parents ever be here?"

Yes. Thirty-one years later, in a place now called "Life Care Center of Elkhorn" my mother is again a resident. Temporarily, yes, as with her other stays, but yet here she is.

The place has changed some. New wings have been added and rehab facilities are now in place. Other things are the same. The smells. It's either urine or disinfectant. Sometimes worse. The sounds. People talking, usually to themselves. Or yelling. Or snoring. And the sights. Abandoned people wander around the building, aimlessly it seems, some lost in the halls of their own minds.

I swore my parents would never be in a place like this. Don't misunderstand - mom gets wonderful care when she is here. Everybody knows her and loves her and I love that they do! So does she - my mom is a very social creature. Much moreso than I, which is probably the only reason I hate to see her go home. Anyway. It's back to the limitations. I simply can't take care of her. I never thought I would say that. I never thought I'd be at a place where it was impossible for me to care for my own mom.

I went up to visit her today. I put on her shoes, helped her into her chair, took her to the toilet, cleaned her up, cut her hair (hacked it, really-yikes!), took her for a walk, put her back in bed, made a list of her personal belongings and discussed the possibility of dialysis. Dad showed up for lunch and we continued the conversation, much to his chagrin I am sure. He has a lot of trouble dealing with the fact that they can't care for each other any more.

As I wheeled mom to the lunchroom, with dad trailing slowly behind, we passed this door. I never know what kind of crazy logic I'll find when I read what people have put together here. And I'm not sure what is more appealing to me at this point: "make it go all day long where pig s are sizzle ing by" or "do not give up."

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