Southern People

In working with the elderly, there are many rewards that come with the job.  One of perks is the humorous exchanges that can take place at unexpected times.  I not sure anyone could stay in the care giving profession if they did not have a sense of humor and were unable to laugh, not only at themselves, but also with those that they take care of.  It certainly helps with the stress which can be extreme at times.

Luke is 100 years old and still gets around on his own.  He needs little care and uses his rollator to zoom around the facility here.  In fact I have to tell him at times to slow down.  He just laughs at me and says; “Mark you worry too much, I don’t plan on falling.”  So we have the same conversation about that.  I always ask him when he is going to plan his fall, so that I can stop worrying about it until then.   He looks me up and down, laughs and speeds off for who knows where.  I always smile at these little talks, but I still worry, it goes with the job.  In the last year his health has become more fragile, so I think my worry is warranted, but happy he doesn’t; one worrier is enough in any relationship.

He likes to get up at 6 a.m. every morning.  He also likes to set his 3 alarms and his 2 timers at different intervals during the night.  I have never been able to figure out his system, no matter how hard I have tried.  He believes being awakened at intervals during the night will make sure that he does not oversleep.  This morning one of his more irritating timers went off.  It rings and buzzes; I hate buzzing.  Gives me a headache and I also grind my teeth and squint … I can be into drama once in awhile.  So I went in and could not find the bloody contraption.  “Luke, why do you have to keep getting up every two hours at night, you need your sleep”?  I was a little frustrated, but also amused at this continuing saga between Luke and myself.  He always looks at me in a certain way and again waves me off.  Meanwhile the bloody timer was buzzing away.  I looked everywhere, and then found it in one of the folds of his covers.  The main reason I am concerned about his sleep is his severe sleep apnea.   He gets very little sleep as it is.   He refuses to use the machine and I don’t really blame him.  If the machine was used he would not be able to hear his many clocks and timers, which would be good for me, but I guess not for him … God bless his heart.

I remember when he first came into the full care ward.  I was checking up on him to see if he was all right and to let him know lunch will be served in 30 minutes.  I found him in bed, not breathing.  At this time I did not know how severe his Apnea was.  So I waited for a minute and he still was not breathing.   I shook him gently but there was no response.  So I called the Nurse and said; “Rose, you won’t believe this but I think Luke just died”.  She said “What!”  It was then I heard Luke give off the tell tale snort that he was starting to breathe again.  So I said “never mind, he is OK.”  Later Rose and I laughed about it, my call, her response and Luke’s snort.

Luke loves his junk mail.  He thinks that the letters he gets from Readers Digest are personal and he feels duty bound to always respond, along with the other groups that prey on old people. We intersect some of his trash mail, but allow most of it to go through.  He can’t be taken advantage of, because he has no money to send them.  Who knows, one day he may strike it rich.  For after all there is only a 1 in 250 million chance to win.  Someone has to win after all.  When I try to talk to him about these ‘con’ organizations, he just, yet again, waves his hand at me and laughs.  “You worry too much”.  This is probably true.

He has lots of visitors and they bring him a great deal of food, Polish food.  Most of his friends are from the Polish community here in the Atlanta.  I love to watch them together; they are loud, joke and laugh, and yes I can’t understand any of it. Which is unimportant;  the love present and the delight that they find in each other, does not need to be translated.  They really love Luke, they are his extended family and I am grateful that they are so loyal too him.  Probably one of the reasons he is still with us.

One of my mind pictures of Luke shows him dancing in circles moving in slow motion, waving his hands, laughing with his eyes closed, surrounded by his many friends who are clapping and urging him on.  I think that sums him up, he dances through life and loves every minute of it.

Luke is well loved, though he can be frustrating at times, but perhaps that is why he is loved.  He is a very colorful personality and I would not want to change anything about him.   I also hope he lives another few years.  Though he is getting tired, he is after all 100 years old.

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Mark Dohle

Mark Dohle

I am 62 years old and have lived in the Atlanta area since 1971.  I am Catholic and my faith is important to me, yet as I age the mystery continues to deepen, so I read broadly and try to keep things somewhat open ended. I work with the aged and the dying. I was in the Navy for four years and I guess I am life of center when it comes to politics, but not too far left. Actually, I am kind of a political moron.

I am the third of  11 children; ten still alive, one died in in 1958, three days after birth.