Gertie attends the Veteran's Day celebration in November 21. She uses a wheelchair and uses her index finger to direct you where you should seat her. Her hearing is lacking but she asks questions. Today the music is loud, the table is draped in red, white and blue dollar tree decorations. We have 2 sheet cakes from Star Market. Enough sugar to kill everyone in the room. Iced tea and lemonade. We say the Pledge of Allegiance. Patriot songs are up loud on the Youtube channel. After everyone is served, stories are shared about brothers who served, fathers and husbands. Rationing, the jokes about the drawn on stockings. "L' shares her story about her father in France. "M" shares how her father was one of the first black pilots to fight in the War. The Big War. Veteran's Day is a dicey celebration. We want to honor those who served and sacrificed but it often turns into a second hand Fourth of July celebration. Too many decorations, too much dancing by staff. As the party winds up, everyone heading for the elevators, I escort Gertie to the door of her unit. "My husband died in Normandy and left me with a brand new baby" she says as I drop her off. This left a scar on my heart that I share every time I can.
"I lived in Arlington for 45 years. I loved my apartment. It was on the third floor. It was perfect. That's why I'm here. I had a stroke and lay on the floor for three days. Luckily a friend came to visit. I called to her from the bedroom that I could hear her but I couldn't get up. The Police were called. I was taken to the hospital. That's why I'm here".
P. tells her story from a wheelchair, while looking out the window at a snowy courtyard. She likes to sit here daily and meditate on the changing beauty of the trees, the light from above, the appearance of a pair of mated Ducks resting in the Koi pond. Another woman passes by, pushing her walker with a wire basket, stuffed with books and newspapers, hanging askew. "By the Grace of God" she begins, "I'm alive. I had something wrong with my brain. I lay on the floor. I was in a coma. The next thing I know I'm here. God is good". C. likes to perform on the baby grand in the lobby. Drink to me only with thine eyes. An old hymn. Year round she shares Jingle Bells.
E. wheels her noisy multi colored wheelchair into the office. Tote bags and handbags, bells, oxygen tubing and stickers arrive before she does. She has something to share. "I was at Mount Auburn yesterday for my appointments. I stuffed small bags with chocolate while waiting and gave them out to staff. It made their day. Someone gave me this piece of art." She shows off a C.D. with a small box glued to the front. In the box are beads, a tiny gold castle glued to a christmas ornament, buttons buried in white glue and glitter. There are two wings with valentine hearts glued to the back of the c.d. It's decided that a project like this needs to be made in one of the crafting classes that are offered. E's story is different. She's young. She is very very smart. She suffers from disorders that make people pull away. ADHD/BiPolar/and many pages of physical complaints, heart, lung. Her heart and mind were broken after a loved one's murder.
And there is O. O. is new. Her conversation involves being the child of Austrian parents, her father a friend of Hitler. Her work with the space program. She wears black thick rimmed glasses. She shows off her Monet or is it a Renior? Was it $300 or $30,000? She sleeps in a chair sitting up. She's funny and witty and gets up every time the doorbell to her apartment rings, "coming". Nurses, Aides, the pharmacy delivering medications. She still has filters, please and thank you, appreciation, understanding and wonder.