Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Love Old People!!

I have always loved old people.  I love talking to them and hearing their stories.  Old people have a lot of knowledge that no book can ever teach you.  I have my mother, Emma Camille Gamble Harrison (aka Cammy) to thank for my love of old people. My mother is very traditional.  She believes in doing what's right, no matter how it affects her.  I don't always agree with her version of right, but at least I always know where she stands.  That must be why I can't stand wishy-washy people. My mother raised us to visit, write, or take care of the older people in our family until the end. I remember when I was very very young visiting my grandpa's mother, Clara Mae Kimball Gamble, aka Muzzy. I don't remember any interactions with Muzzy but she had a reputation for being kind of mean, but my mother visited her anyway and I took that example to heart.

My grandmother's mother, Georgia Emma Burelson Thompson/Hastings, aka Bamba, lived in California with her husband James <middle name> Hastings, aka Grandpa Jimmy. As a child my grandparents, Howard Ladd Gamble, aka Papa, and Mildred Cleo Thompson Gamble, aka Memo, and mom would pack me and my sister, Natalie Iva Harrison Wills, up in the motor home every summer and take a trip to California (and other places). I vividly remembering visiting Bamba many many times. My mother also wrote her a letter every week. She loved Bamba and was a diligent granddaughter. She name me after her, Georgette Pearl Harrison.

We also visited and cared for my Aunt Ivy Pearl <maiden name> Kimball/Alpert, aka Iva.  I was also named after Iva. Iva married into our family by way of my grandpa's favorite uncle, Delbert Kirkland Kimball.  Delbert died in the mid-1950s and Iva moved from Oklahoma to Arizona and in with my grandparents when my mom was very young. She and my mom became best buddies. I think Iva was the only person who my mom truly trusted. They told stories about the tricks they used to play on each other and the fun they had. One story was that they shared a bed with a trundle and my mom would set up the trundle in such a way that it would hit the floor when Iva climbed in it. It was a big laughing joke between them. They truly loved each other.

I didn't know Delbert, I knew Iva's second husband, Walter Alpert.  Walter was a strange man and he would sometimes make me mad, but I loved him. I have memories with him as young as 3. One time he took me to a playground and I crawled UNDER a moving merry-go-round, scared the bejeeziz out of Walter and he dragged me out and spanked me.  Pretty sure that's the only spanking I've had in my life and I'm pretty sure I deserved that one plus many more! Iva and Walter lived in a Trailer park near 27th Ave and Camelback in a horrible neighborhood, not because they were poor but because Walter was a stereotypical Jew. Lived more frugally than I have ever seen. When Walter died he left Iva over $300,000 in the bank. No investments built that money, he just saved every penny he could from his job as a mail carrier and whatever pension or social security they received (man I wish I had the self-disciplin!).

 I don't remember Iva doing anything but sitting in her chair, painting her fingernails, or going to eat with us at a buffet. She loved buffets. She was very overweight and it was hard for her to walk.  I spent quite a bit of time in hospitals because of Iva. We visited Iva and Walter at least once a week, and drove them around to doctors appointments and such. I had graduated high school when Walter passed away. We prepared ourselves to take care of Iva until her end however the most heartbreaking thing happened to us the weeks to follow after his funeral. Iva's family in Oklahoma, which had had nothing to do with her for years, showed up and managed to brain wash her into thinking that we were going to hurt her and they took back to Oklahoma. It hurt so much with her gone, and I can't even imagine what my mom went through when her best friend was taken from her.  We learned later that Iva's family had taken her money, put her in a home, and left her there to die. They never visited her. I don't understand why they didn't just come take her money and leave her with us. We didn't want her money, we wanted Iva.

After Iva our lives went on, but my love for old people lived on. I always managed to endear myself to an older person.  I had several restaurant jobs and inevitably the restaurant had one older hostess that I became fast friends with. I just love talking to these ladies and hearing about their lives.  It makes me sad that I didn't keep in touch with them after leaving these different jobs.  So at the age of 24, having two kids at the time, I went to work in the nurse's office at my mom's school because my husband had been out of work for a while. The nurse I worked with was a wonderful older lady and I really enjoyed my time with her.

I left the school to go work as a CNA in a care center a few months before the school year was out. The job was hard, and frustrating, and the only thing that kept me going were the residents, my old people. Several residents stick out in my mind. Strelsa had Alzheimer's and was a difficult patient. I did my best to talk to her and made her feel comfortable. She told me quite a bit about her early life and I discovered she liked music.  Showering her was always a hard task because she wouldn't cooperate but as soon as I started singing to her she was completely relaxed. I was so sad when she passed away. I still have her obituary somewhere and was saddened that the family didn't put much thought or creativity into it.  Another resident, Pam, was the funniest lady. She only had one leg due to her diabetes and she was heavy and quite difficult to move around and care for. But being able to have conversations with her is what made caring for her fun. I wish I had had more patients with my co-workers I could have stayed longer at that job. I've always struggled getting along with stupid, unmotivated people.

I left that job and went back to taking care of my babies. When I was 25 my grandpa, who had been struggling with old age for a while, had open heart surgery. After 3 weeks recovering at a hospital he was moved to a care center. We didn't know how long he'd have to be there and were just going day by day making the best decisions we could. I visited him on the third day he had been there, it was Valentines Day (which is an insignificant fact, but it sticks out in my mind). He left with me that day. He was miserable and uncomfortable not being home and more scared than I have ever seen him. He looked me in the eye and said 'please take me with you'. It meant rearranging my life so that he would have round the clock care, but I did it. There is no way I could have told that man no after everything he had done for me his entire life. So I gave up my profitable in home baby-sitting business, moved my oldest kids, Coraleigh Shreeve and Ethan Ladd Shreeve, in with my mother so they could continue going to school, and my youngest daughter, Georgia Pearl Shreeve, and I moved in with my grandparents. They lived in Morristown which was about an hour from town in a house they built in the middle of the desert. We were there for a month and it wasn't easy, but I got him so that my grandma would be able to take care of him.  He lived a couple more years after that. He died at home surrounded by family. It was a bittersweet time. I was so grateful his suffering had come to an end but my heart was broken because the man that I had loved the longest was gone. I miss him.

So now I'm 32 and I'm going to school for respiratory therapy and the past month I have been doing a clinical rotation at John C Lincoln North Mountain. A respiratory therapist doesn't spend much time with their patients but I'm enjoying the interactions with my old people. I love them and I think that is my calling in life.  I'm hoping I can find a job as a respiratory therapist working with old people. Respiratory therapists have some down time built into their schedules because they are on call their entire shift, meaning if someone needs a treatment we hop to give it to them even if we're on a break. I hope to be able to use my down time talking to my old people.

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