Lovely sunset

Lovely sunset

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Let's Keep Our Stories

This whole blogging thing has me a bit intimidated. I return each summer vacation to my blog filled with hope and ambition that I will blog, blog, blog my heart out. I even bought a book on my kindle all about how to blog and have people want to read it. Haven't read that book in a while. So the problem is in that book it detailed all the things you must add to your blog posts in order to attract readers. I guess that is not really why I want to write. Yes, it would be nice for someone to read one of my posts and comment. That has happened once or twice. It is a rather nice feeling but the comments I have received have been from friends and family who know me. I feel like those don't count. They know I am an English teacher. They likely know I can write. Hard to imagine being a good teacher without being able to write.

No, the reason I want to write is because I love the way the page looks as it fills up with my words. I like to see my thoughts looking back at me from the computer screen. I want to tell the stories that I share every day in my classroom -- I want to write them down before I forget them.

Many years ago I worked in a couple of different nursing homes. I was an Activities Director. It was a challenging yet rewarding job but, ultimately, one that sent me back to school to become a teacher. But when I was employed at the nursing homes I met some of the most unique individuals. I was sure that someday I would write a book and tell the stories of the ladies and gentlemen that I had met. There were some strong characters to be sure. And some were sweet.. and some were .... well, just plain ornery. But the stories I could tell..... 

I do remember one story that I have told to my classes often. This year I mentioned that one of our pets at home is a goldfish. The kind you win at the carnival. I explained to my class that we had one of those that was over 5 years old! They seemed unimpressed but I pushed on to tell them that those fish typically live only a few days because they are bait fish intended to be fed to other fish. It is usually just a big sad story a few days after winning them as the ritual flushing occurs.

For the nursing home residents, throughout the year we would plan some big events that had themes. One time we planned a Bridal Fashion show and I and many of the other workers wore our own wedding gowns to the delight of the residents. Another big event was our Senior Prom. The residents really looked forward to the dancing, the music, and of course, the unique decorations we managed to pull off.

 For one special event we had an ocean theme. As we brainstormed decorations, the activities staff agreed we could place fishbowls on each dining table for a centerpiece. We would buy the inexpensive carnival fish to put in each bowl. The residents were amazed to see the tiny goldfish swimming around as dinner was served. The fishbowls were a colossal hit. The residents could not stop talking about those fishbowls.

After the event, we gathered up all the glass fishbowls onto a gray serving cart and rolled it back into the Activities/Bingo room. All the fish were moved into a large fish tank found in the craft closet. We didn't give them another thought until the next day when residents began arriving for  bingo. A few of the more vocal residents pointed out quickly that several fish were floating on the top. Bad luck for them, we guessed! They were plucked out and flushed posthaste.

A few hours later, residents gathered again in the Activities room for cards. It wasn't long before we were being notified of more fatalities in the fish tank. Not wanting to dwell on the sad topi, we again quickly removed the goners. The residents remained cheerful noting how much fun it had been to see them on the dining tables.

By the next day, there were many dead fish floating on the top of the tank. We all did our best to  remove them before anymore residents saw them! This was starting to get depressing! Day after day we scooped out the dead ones and before long, in spite of having purchased hundred of goldfish, there was only one left. This fish was hardy. He was the sole survivor. None of us could figure out why it was still alive but it was. Even the residents noticed. One of the maintenance men eventually asked us if he could have the fish for his apartment. We quickly agreed not wanting to have to share the gruesome tale with the residents when the final flush was needed. He named that fish Rocky.

I don't know how long that fish lived. I guess my story sort of stinks without knowing that but like our own fish, it wasn't supposed to happen at all. We really look at our fish with wonder. How is it still alive? No idea. But that will to live is something to think about.  It seems to be a powerful force. Maybe the residents took some solace in the fact that, in spite of all the others, at least one had managed to hang in there.

Those are the kinds of stories I don't want to lose. There were really special residents like Martie, who always had a white neck brace collar on, and my little piano player, Edna with the squeaky high voice and the slow, slow, shuffle, shuffle walk and Michael, who was the unofficial mayor of the home.

If we don't write down the stories, we lose them. I really am going to try harder to remember more of them. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. For now.

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