Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Staff (01/31/13)
TITLE: Your Rod
By Jack Taylor
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Merilee noticed the smile within the first three days. At first she wondered if it was the way the sun was filtering in through the stained glass window. After a week of careful observation she was convinced it wasn’t the lighting. The movement of lips was deliberate. As a new supervisor, she was determined to understand her charges.
The silver haired woman, slumped in her wheelchair, seemed incapable of response and yet this was clearly response. Her chin rested firmly on her collar bone as if bolted in place. One visiting pre-schooler had tugged at his father’s pant legs, pointed in her direction, and asked rather loudly, “daddy, is she dead?”
The lips showed she wasn’t. Merilee began to look for patterns.
It wasn’t the sound of the dinner chimes. The parade of wheeled chariots pushed toward the dining room didn’t have any effect whatsoever. The eyes remained glued shut and the small stream of drool trickled steadily down between the fine chin hairs to the cleft where it found momentum down her neck until it was absorbed in the pale blue cotton bib. The spoonfulls of pureed mush changed nothing.
It wasn’t the weekly trips to the hairdresser, the massage therapist, or the piano player. It wasn’t the endless parade of television programming that flickered on and on.
The supervisor began to feel like a stalker as she paced herself to repeatedly cross paths with the stationary convalescent. She had done her research. The woman had been admitted with Lewy body dementia as an official diagnosis after a doctor had overdosed her with Respiradol following knee replacement surgery. The woman’s husband insisted she was completely fine before the rehab therapy.
The husband was there hour after hour singing her hymns, reading scriptures, and sharing memories. It was clear, from the twitching of her eyebrows, that these things reached deep inside the woman, but the small services didn’t cause the smile.
Then she noticed Rod, the custodian.
Every day, three times a day, he punched in the code and shuffled his way into her secure unit. He checked the lights, the garbage, the door handles and the wheels on each chair. As he reached the comatose woman he rubbed his finger along her cheek and whispered something in her ear. And there it was. The lip movement.
For the next week she paid attention every time Rod walked through the door. And sure enough. Every time. It worked.
But then she noticed that when two of her care aids also bent close the lips moved.
She decided to confront the three.
It was a Tuesday afternoon. The rain was streaming down the windows outside. There wasn’t a reason within a mile to smile. Merilee leaned her right shoulder against the wall and casually watched the security door swing open. It was Rod.
The supervisor had deliberately placed several of the seniors in their wheelchairs within a few strides of the entrance. Rod walked directly up to the intended resident and touched her cheek and whispered in her ear on his way to checking her wheels. And sure enough, the smile.
When Rod reached her at the end of the hall, Merilee pointed him toward the first of the three vacant chairs sitting opposite her desk. He spent the time checking the thermostat and the air conditioning unit that lay abandoned in the corner.
The care aids came together and both took turns hovering over the resident. They too brought smiles before heading in her direction. The pair took the indicated chairs without question.
“What’s up with Mrs. Emery? How do you get her to smile?”
The trio exchanged sheepish grins and finally Carlos spoke up.
“It’s a thing we’ve had going from when she was still able to talk.”
“Keep talking,” prompted Merilee.
Samson continued the confession. “When Mrs. Emery first came in she would love to quote Psalm 23 over and over. One day Rod heard her and said, ‘hey, I’m your Rod!’ We were standing there and we stepped in and said ‘and we’re your staff.”
“So, she laughed. She had just quoted out loud ‘Your Rod and your staff, they comfort me!’”
“And, now every time we pass her we bend over and tell her that her Rod and staff are here to comfort her. It makes her smile.”
“Do you think she really remembers?”
“She smiles doesn’t she?”
“You’re going out of your way.”
“We’re just comforting family.”
“Just keep her smiling.”
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