Until just before I turned 24, I spent a great deal of time in a nursing home. As a child, I was there with my mother either at my choice or because she had no one else to watch me during the weekends and school-less summer days. My mother was an Activity Director at the nursing home where my aunt was the Administrator and part owner. It was more or less a family business.

I remember early mornings driving from El Segundo to the Mar Vista section of Los Angeles, the sun usually only having been up for a short while. Stopping by Jack in the Box for breakfast, if I was lucky, before going to my second home. For that's what it was for me, a second home. I would roam up and down the hallways, visiting with the patients, sneaking rides in empty wheelchairs, or talking the ears off any nurses who would listen to me.

Most of the time, I would help my mom with her activities. In the morning we'd do armchair aerobics. Mom and I would sit in chairs facing the patients and they'd do the best they could to stretch their arms over their heads or lift their legs as the voice on the cassette tape instructed. If I close my eyes and it's quiet, I can still hear the lady's voice from the tape and the cheesy background music.

The afternoons would bring either Bingo or music from some volunteer group or if it was a special day, a birthday party. If the patients had been able to, though, they'd have played Bingo every day of the week. Mom was always stuck between a rock and a hard place with this as she was required by law to have variety in her activities. Whenever the health inspectors would visit, they would review her calendar of events to ensure there were different kinds of activities scheduled. Those poor patients, wanting all Bingo all the time and the mean old health department not caring one bit. My mom would have mercy on them though and substitute Bingo every once in a while for whatever the scheduled activity was.

At 5 or 6 or 7 p.m., we'd head home. The time we left would depend on if enough nurse's aides had shown up for the 3-11 p.m. shift and if help was needed serving the dinner trays. Since mom and I were family, we'd get tapped to help out. I remember one time we were at home on a weekend and my aunt Florence called saying she needed us to come in to help serve the dinner trays. I was so angry. I was a teenager by that time. It was her presumptuousness that drove me nuts. But we'd go in and help, as always. The patients came first with Florence, no matter what. For that reason, that nursing home was consistently one of the best in California.

I had an entirely different blog thought out for today until I started going through my SIR list. TooOldForThis' entry for today got me thinking about my nursing home roots. I only hope she can forgive me for sticking my nose where it didn't belong and giving her a presumptuous suggestion. It was born out of my past experiences and out of concern for a grandmother I've never met. I hope she understands that.
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