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Nettie Part 1

Story ID:3607
Written by:Mary Caliendo (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:suburban Chicago IL USA
Year:1979
Person:Nettie and me
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Nettie Part 1

“Good morning, Wake up Nettie!” I said. Then I pulled open the shade and let the beautiful sun shine through. Nettie’s room was loaded with magazine pictures that she had cut out and taped to the nearest wall next to her bed. It was cute. The pictures were of things that she must have remembered during her life, or maybe things she just wanted out of life and never did achieve. She is a petite woman of seventy nine years old. Her eyes were green, and they would seem to get greener as the day wore on. She always insisted that she have a small bow or barrette in her hair each day. They would match the sweater that she would wear. I saw her hair had a huge knot in it, and that the barrette was stuck in the middle of it all. I’d be back to fix it, if the aides didn’t get to it. Nettie had an untouched breakfast tray sitting on the bedside table. I said, “Nettie, what did you eat for breakfast?” She said in a very cranky, tone “Oh shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about!” And then she stuck her tongue out at me, while trying to make a raspberry, she spit all over my face. “Yuck, you got a towel for my shower?” I giggled. Nettie just shook her hand at me. I said, “Hey Lady Jane, I’ll be back later, see ya!” And then I left; hoping that Nettie would actually eat her breakfast before the kitchen came around to pick up the trays.

I took the job of entry bookkeeper in a large nursing home. I was fresh out of high school, full of enthusiasm and boundless energy and was considered quite patient for my young age of eighteen. I thought that I would "learn the books” and use this job as a stepping stone to going further, and perhaps majoring in accounting at the local junior college. As soon as I got to the office each morning at six, I would make a fresh pot of coffee. That was absolutely the very first thing that I learned! Oh and how to answer the phones, make pages on the overhead intercom, and how to work the buzzer to accept deliveries and let the general public in the front door. I was indispensable! Yes. I was a very integral part of the office. I did eventually do the filing, typing ,and make sure that if a resident needed some thing, our office would work with the Occupational Therapy/Activity Coordinator to make sure that everyone got anything and everything that was requested.

I made friends in the lunch room with some of the other ladies there. The front office staff normally kept to themselves and did not mingle with the rest of the workers in the nursing center. I thought that to be extremely ludicrous! I could not wait until it was time for lunch, I would run out of there. I talked to everyone. It was like a wonderful melting pot there. There were so many nationalities in that lunch room. I thought it was cool. Back in the late 1970’s it was neat to talk to someone who was not born in America.

I thought it was interesting to talk to people from distant lands like the Philippines, India, Poland, Greece, Korea, and Thailand. I was learning things like a sponge. In the first six months there, I learned beautiful needlework, I brought home many recipes, and I learned how to swear in many languages. I learned right away, that I was more interested in the study of people and what they were made of, rather than sitting in that moldy office, listening to a bunch of stuffed shirts bantering about how awful the place smelled. Those women in that office had no idea that between their perfume, hair spray, and cigarettes they stunk! I often hated to go into the executive secretary's office, I thought I would gag as I took notes on the memos I would type. I was at this job six months when a job in the Occupational Therapy was posted.It too was an entry position, the hours were later,weekend work was required, and the pay was less. It was horrible! So naturally I took it!To see the look on the Executive Secretary’s face was priceless. And it was even funnier when she asked who will make her coffee? Can you believe? I cleaned out my desk and reported to work the next day on the other side of the building.

I was greeted with cheers and a round of applause as I entered the lunch room that day. What a great feeling! I never felt more at home than I did at this job.I learned that Activites was about bringing reality back to the residents each day. It was through physical exercise, reality therapy,hosting parties, and greeting families. It was we who brought the residents their daily living classes, extra blankets, played the bingo, rented movies, took trips, and taught cooking classes. I felt like this was a job that really mattered. I was making a difference.

Nettie lived on the fourth floor. I was assigned to the fifth floor. It was considered the floor with the most independent of people. The third floor residents were considered the most confused. They were belligerent, and combative. Newbie’s like me were never assigned there. I liked my floor, they were receptive and loved me instantly. But I was so surprised to find out that the nursing center was filled with people who were not elderly. There were residents who were young; aged like my parents, but that they may have an illness that bound them to a wheelchair and they needed long-term care, there were even younger ones there. This guy was suicidal and was a drug addict, and frankly, I think no one knew where he belonged. It was interesting. I was so young, but I learned about life there. I learned quickly how sad it all really was.
End of Part 1