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Giving thanks for my roommate

November 20, 2017
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After the upheaval of another involuntary discharge, Thanksgiving makes me pause to consider what I am grateful for. Family, friends and their support are certainly blessings. But, in 2017, after moving to this facility, I am most thankful for my roommate.

I did not think I would ever meet my match, but I have. When I was first told my roommate's name was Charlie, I gave the admissions director a funny look. She said, "No worries. Charlie is short for Charlotte." Even though Charlie was not feeling well the day I moved in, she made me feel quite welcome.

Charlie told me she is 81 and was born in Iowa. She lived and worked as a vocational nurse (LPN) in California and elsewhere. She also married and had three children. Before moving to Ohio, she suffered a stroke in the 1970s that paralyzed her left side. After that, her daughter lived nearby to help care for her.

Charlie's paralysis does not get her down nor do her other health challenges. She has a constant cough that makes it difficult for her to swallow. Nevertheless, Charlie goes to most meals and inevitably ends up rolling around the dining room getting things she needs or helping other residents.

One afternoon, a week after I came, Charlie came up to me in the living room and we talked for the next two hours. Even though she has some difficulty talking at times, we shared what life has served up for us. She encourages me to get out of my room and always checks to see if I have eaten at mealtime.

When I am up riding in the hallway, I come back at least once an hour to check on Charlie. Sometimes, I can roll to the nurses' station to tell them what Charlie needs. I always hope that might save the aides some steps.

Charlie is a TV watcher but does not watch the news. She only wants good things from her TV. She apologized early on that she plays it loud at night for comfort. I told her I have worn earplugs for years to help me have more quiet to sleep. Charlie's daughter visits frequently and since her daughter is closer to my age, it feels like I have an older and a younger sister.

Charlie goes to church at times and loves any activities that feature music. Though she uses continuous oxygen, if she needs a new tank, she tells the aides and they replace it. After that, she is off to do something.

The other day, Charlie told me she had on a new top and jacket that she has had in her closet for a while. Like me, she keeps something new in her closet to wear to spark up the day when she needs it.

I think Charlie and I both feel better that we have each other. I often think how difficult it must be for her, after being a nurse for 50 years, to have others care for her. I am certain she was one dynamic nurse.

Like me, Charlie is hardheaded. Nursing or therapy tells her what is best for her health and safety. Then, Charlie does what she wants. Because of that, she butts heads with staff sometimes. I told her the staff wants to keep us safe, though always being safe is not much fun. But Charlie tries, which inspires me.

Charlie is planning to celebrate Thanksgiving at her daughter's home. I know she will love a holiday celebration. My holidays will be better because Charlie is around.

Kathleen Mears

@KathleenLMears1

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is...

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