Friday, April 1, 2011

Tribute to B.F

One day, when I have time and some creative juices to spare, I want to write a fictionalized memoir about B.F, one of my favorite residents at the nursing home.

B.F. was E.G's room mate. Yesterday, E.G's passing was very emotional for B.F. We bonded over some heartfelt moments. B.F. is also one of the few residents who are alert in the long term care unit I work in. She is also one of the few Black residents in the nursing home. I want to pay tribute to this wonderful human being.

E.G, for what I believe are racial reasons, used to always think that B.F. was stealing her stuff. Part dementia, part racism. She would always say that "this strange woman in my room always takes my things."

Completely untrue. B.F. would confront her sometimes and ask, "Why do you always think that I steal from you? All your things are right here."

Among my co-workers, we would always say, it's because B.F. is Black, that's why E.G. always assumed that she had to be a thief. V, one of the housekeepers who is also Black, would always just point to her skin and say, "That's why." We would tell B.F, "E.G. had mental illness, and she doesnt know always what she is saying." Semi-true, but probably one of the effects that E.G's mental illness had on her was that she had no filters and would say what she thought.
We told the charge nurse that E.G. and B.F. should stop being roommates cos they were agitating each other. Of course that wasn't taken too seriously.

A few months ago, E.G. fell from her chair in her room. She had slipped while trying to transfer herself to bed. It was her room mate, B.F, who wheeled herself anxiously out into the hallway to call for help.

E.G. survived the fall with no serious injuries. From then on, everytime E.G. speculated about BF, I would tell her, "Don't say that about B, she saved your life!" To that, EG would always ask, "Really? How?" And I would remind her.

A few days before EG died, right when we were about the clear the dining room, BF wheeled herself next to EG and fed her. She had wheeled herself across the dining room to check on her roommate who was obviously not in good health. It's very touching to see one old lady in a wheelchair feeding another. We all paused in the dining room and watched this caring,loving moment unfold.

BF also always pushes the other residents who are unable to wheel themselves, down the hallway, from her own wheelchair. To check in on her friends, she would hold their hands and ask them how they are doing.

I always tell BF, "You are such a good person." She would always reply, "What else is there to be? It's the only thing I can do. God knows."

BF had shown me pictures of herself when she was younger. She was, and still is, a very beautiful woman. She had moved up to Seattle from Louisiana in her early twenties, got married and then left her husband. "I was better off without him," she would say without going into details. Since then, she raised her sons as a single mother working as a nanny in Seattle. She was independent and living with her son in Seattle until a fall a few years ago brought her into the nursing home.

I also always tell BF, "You're my favorite cos you so nice!" To which, she would reply, "You're my favorite cos you take good care of me."

A month ago, BF told me she was getting depressed. "I'm bored of being bored. I just go around and around this same place. I miss my house." She would describe the garden that she had back home, and point to the flowers that her neighbor brought on her visits. I tried talking with her about life, about her youth, her kids. I told the social worker, but apart form trying to get her to be involved in activities, there didnt seem much else to do. A nursing home is a depressing place to be. Cooped up, no place else to go, the same old grim hallway, waking up too early for breakfast, sleeping too early at night in the same old green gown, the same old sweet hot cocoa every morning...

Yesterday, BF's son came to visit. BF introduced him to me for the third time, likely having forgotten that we had been introduced before.

She stopped me along the hallway.
"This is my son," she pointed to the grown 50 year-old looking man with one hand, and the other holding mine.
And to him, she said,
"This is my baby son. My favorite."

It was a precious moment for me.

Wrapped up in the whole emotionally funky state I was in yesterday, I couldnt respond or engage. I just smiled and walked off.

I didnt know if the first thing to cross his mind would be about the mistaken gender identification (which I really didnt care for), or whether it would be acknowledging and appreciating the relationship that his mother and I had built in the strange circumstances of this institution.

Much love and respect to BF.

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