Friday, September 19, 2008

Aged Irony

When I started this blog I was employed at a residential facility that supervised elderly patients who have Alzheimer's Disease. I had been there a year and had grown to love and adore many of the residents I worked with.

But the hours I worked were overnight. I picked that shift for a reason. It meant I was always home during the day, in case the kids needed me. Granted, I would be sleeping most of the time they were in school, but should an emergency come up, I was technically 'there'.

And it worked well for us. The hours were part time so for every two week block I worked five days in a row. Then I got nine days in a row off. So for two thirds of the month it felt like I had no job.

But eventually the hours started to catch up with me. I felt like I checked out of our family for those five days. It became harder to get the sleep blocks I needed. I began to worry about sleep for the first time in my life. And let's be honest. It was making me feel old.

So this summer Hubby and I agreed I might need to start looking around for something with more daylight hours.

Three days later I was at the library with the two youngest boys and a great solution presented itself.

The library was hiring. The hours were perfect for us. The building itself sits right around the corner from our house. The pay was better than my current job.

I needed this job.

So I tweaked my resume and handed it in. Then I waited.

I was told they would not even look at applications until the closing date. So I waited.

Finally, finally the closing date came. Then Labor Day weekend came. So I waited some more.

Long story short, the call finally came for an interview and the interview must have gone well because I was offered the job.

I am so excited to be joining the night sleepers again. I think our bank account will like that this job is a bit closer to full time. The kids love that even when I am at work, I am easily accessible.

But then there was this issue of my old people.

As much as I told myself the schedule was not working, the hours were not working, it was not a long term plan, there was no denying that I had grown to love the residents I worked with. I would have to make peace with leaving them behind.

So here is where the irony comes in. The day I walked in to hand in my application a new display was going up on the long hallways that lead into our library. Several faces jumped off the wall at me.

They were pictures of my people. Not just some of the assorted residents that live in the building where I worked, they were my specific old people. The ones I personally loved.

A local photographer had done an art project with them, where they learned to use digital cameras. And in the process she took photos of them and wrote short life histories for each of them.

So when I walked down that long hallway to turn in my application for the job that would make me leave them, I was surrounded by their smiling faces.

I couldn't decide at first how that made me feel. After handing in my paperwork I went back to the van and sat for a minute before starting the engine. What did it mean? Anything? Was it their blessing to me? Was it a sign I should stay with them? Was I doing the right thing?

But the strongest feeling I had was peace. So I decided to claim it.

I had to think that as much as those people had changed my life, and my thoughts of old people, I hoped I had made their world a bit nicer by our interactions. And I knew they would be just fine in the hands of my co-workers.

I was not scared to leave them. Not nervous. Not even sad, really. They don't always remember me, from shift to shift. But because I remembered them I was able to make sure they had their favorite blanket or got their favorite snack before bed. I can think of only one who might even have a thought that goes something like, "I wonder whatever happened to that tall woman?..."

But they will be okay. I will move on to a job that works better for my day to day life and they will continue to be well cared for and loved by their families and the staff.

Every day of training last week I walked past their smiling faces. Many times I stopped and looked them in the eye. And I still felt nothing but peace.

Peace and love for a time that was short but oh, so sweet. A time when I was blessed to know a pretty great group of old people.

People who were kind enough to follow me to my new job and smile at me along the way.

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