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My Adopted One

Posted by Dr. D , 07 October 2012 · 406 views

It was 3:45 p.m. on a Friday in January and we were led past the twin glass doors of the Miramont Nursing Home.  It was a community program for high school juniors to adopt an elderly resident and learn the important lessons of compassion, service and social skills.  I didn’t know in that moment I was going to learn much more.

I was led to room 32 and it was in that moment that it all began.  I was to link my life to Gertrude Baccus and she would forever change mine.  “You’ve adopted me?” she asked with her brow furrowed with doubt.  “So what are you going to do for me?”

“Read books for you, maybe.”

“I belong to the Book of the Month Club, sonny.  Know what that means?  It means I read a book a month.  You can bring me Tootsie Rolls.  I really like Tootsie Rolls.”

“Do they let you have candy?” I asked.

“Hell no, that’s why I need you to bring them.”

Adopting Gertrude was just another adventure for her.  Her family had put her in the home because her behavior had become erratic and they no longer considered her to be responsible.  Two years before she had gone to Seattle to visit her granddaughter and took a taxi from the airport.  The driver said he had a quick errand and parked.  When he did not return soon enough for her pleasure, she moved to the driver’s seat and drove the taxi to her granddaughter’s home.  The assignment to a nursing home somehow avoided arrest for grand theft auto, court and penalties.

I visited on Wednesday after school and on weekends.  At first it was part of the obligation of study but later I went because I wanted to.  The coarseness of the woman was dominating and fearful but somehow she conveyed the message that it was always for my own good.  She was cunning, manipulating and brutally frank, but somehow lovable, enchanting and inspiring.

“You need to be here early Sunday,” she ordered.  “My grandson has a grand opening of his eye clinic.  Why in God’s name would anyone decide to be an optologist or whatever the hell they’re called?  I need you to go with me.  They don’t let me go out alone, the damned fascists!”

We took a taxi to the clinic and upon entering were greeted with a painting of a gigantic eye on the wall behind the receptionist’s desk.  “Hi Granny,” said the doctor before waving his hand over the scene. “What do you think?”

Gertrude was fixated on the painting. “What the hell is that?” she asked and when told it was a detail of the human eye, she sighed, “thank God you’re not a proctologist!”

With Gertrude I became a professional smuggler.  I took her Tootsie Rolls by the dozens and she saved the wrappers so I could destroy the evidence.  I also took bourbon, pizza slices, gum drops and once a chicken fried steak that she ate with her fingers.  We delighted in our intrigues and together were far too devious for all the security that surrounded us.  We were partners in crime and we came to love it – and each other.

I took her presents on her birthday and Christmas.  She never opened them but always held them to her chest and smiled with delight.  “I wish I could give you something,” she said.

“You already have, a million times.”

She wrote to me when I was away in university and I called her on the important days.  We never lost touch.  In my junior year during the vacation time, the home called.  “You had better come.  It’s time.”  At the home I was told that they didn’t call me because of their concern, but Gertrude had told them to.  “What do they know?” she asked. “I’m the one doing the dying.”

She was 92-years-old and she went to sleep with a smile.  She had asked the nurses to give me all the books she had received over her many years as a member of the Book of the Month Club.  The nurse also showed me all the presents I had ever given Gertrude.  They were stored under her bed, unopened.

They don’t make them like her anymore.  The beautiful spirit of Gertrude, my adopted one.

Beautiful, old age releases one to be themselves and yes they are very lovable, wrinkles and all.  She was lucky to have you my friend, I was deeply touched.

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So lovely...
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Oct 08 2012 12:14 PM
Reminds me of my granny. God I miss her so much!
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