There should be a list of jobs that every person needs to do for at least a couple of months before they settle into their life. One of those jobs would be working as an aid at a nursing home.
It is back-braking, thankless, smelly work. You are on your feet for your entire shift, cleaning up every body fluid imaginable. The only time you sit down is to shovel non-descript slop into the toothless mouths of wrinkled ladies staring off into space or into the tobacco-stained mouths of ornery old men.
We had been living back in Tomahawk for a couple weeks and none of the local clinics or hospitals had any openings for me. I knew that one of nursing homes would hire me, but did I want that? I finally decided that I didn’t have a choice. We were living with my parents and if we ever planned to get a place of our own, I had to supplement Dan’s income.
I worked mostly second shift at Riverview Nursing Home which sits along the Wisconsin River in Tomahawk. Shortly after arriving at work each afternoon, us aids would usher or wheel most of the residents to the dining room. Some had to be fed in their rooms, which wasn’t as bad as one would think because it was quiet and gave me time to spend one on one with the bedridden. I’d look into their faces, smoothing back what white hair they had left, wondering what was behind those rummy eyes, what stories they had to tell, if only their physical condition or their dementia wasn’t keeping them silent.
After dinner, someone always needed a shower and it wasn’t long before they all had to be gotten ready for bed. The last duty before leaving for the night was to do bed checks, making sure every one was where they should be and that no one had soiled themselves already.
I’d drive straight home after work and fall into bed. One night, I woke up at two am to find myself standing at Dan’s side of the bed, the covers thrown back. In my sleep, I was checking to see if he had wet the bed. He didn’t see the humor in that. Giggling, I shrugged, occupational hazard.