More powerful than a cultural reference

Come on down!*

Faster than a speeding bullet!

More powerful than a locomotive!

Able to leap tall buildings with a single bound!

More wonderful than rain in TX! Impossible.

More surprised than a spotted gecko in the dining room.

Flipped on the dining room light when I was heading out to the patio to watch the thunderstorm lightning.
The little gecko, about 1 1/2 inches long, moved almost as fast as those SuperPreschoolers on their new playground woodchips.

*The wonderful invitation to make money reading book reviews again this Saturday.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Bad origami

Tuesday Howie was saying, "You must be mir, mir, mir...."  I figured he was trying to say "Mary Jane", my sister.  "No, Dad, I am Nancy."  

Then he said, "You must be a miracle."

No, I'm just a grumpy, broke, stressed middle-aged woman trying to do the right thing.

When I got there Tuesday he was all wet from trying to grab a juice off the supper tray just beyond his reach.  The aide always brings the tray in and sets it on the wheelie table, but they leave it for me to feed Dad (or sit with him while he tries to feed himself).  So after nine hours wrangling preschoolers, I got to change my dad's gown and bedding, scoot Dad up to the top of the bed again, and spend an hour while he tried to eat and coughed his nonproductive choking drowning cough.  Dad weighs so little I can grab the mat under him and pull him up.  If I don't move him up, when I raise the bed it folds him in the wrong place.  

I feel a bit folded in the wrong place myself, but it helps to be walking in the park again.  I found my retirement home:

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Shovel-ready woodchicks

How many chips could a woodchick chuck? Don't know, but the new layer of cushioning woodchips on the playground was a big hit with the slippery-sliders. Having a truck dump woodchips was a tongue-twisting delight for connoisseurs of preschool language.  

It took staff and volunteers many weekend wheelbarrow hours to shovel, move, and rake the thick layer of cushioning chips. It was hard work, and I was not there, off reading book reviews instead.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Opposite Dogs

A pretty doggone fine week in art class with some very original results.  We've been inspired by Emily Gravett's delightful book, Dogs, in which the narrator cat's favorite dog turns out to be "any dog that won't chase me."  I can relate.

I'm wondering how many weeks I can sustain the dog theme for art class with books and different art materials.  We haven't even gotten to paint yet, let alone clay, soft sculpture, or papier mache.  Can I make it last until Open House?  Halloween?  Thanksgiving?  What about creating art to send to my grandpuppy, Wiley?  Sort of a cross between Flat Stanley and mail art...Geez, it turns out there's a Flat Stanley app for iPhones.  No wonder the USPS in in trouble!

My poor volunteer parent helper is probably praying I won't keep bursting into my tone-deaf version of "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?"

Did I mention that Wiley is the cutest, smartest doggy on earth?

He will undoubtedly appreciate my students' artistic efforts and fan mail.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Sunny with a chance of hamburger buns

Bakery debris on the 75 expressway  was strangely peculiar.  First, I drove south through crashed pieces that might have been bakery trays. Then suddenly, I was driving though hundreds of sliced hamburger buns bouncing around, blown by passing cars, and getting squished between the Campbell and Arapaho exits.

After work I headed north up 75.  Took  the George Bush Turnpike exit on the high overpass through WHAT?  Remains of a watermelon hailstorm on the George Bush overpass!  Curving around the ramp to head into the sun and pulling down the visor, when bunka chunka chunka, I was zooming through the middle of the mess. Am I a road warrior or a picnic caterer?

Friday's walk along the  Rowlett Creek Trail  found me jumping the fallen log to photograph a fast moving skink.  As I went over, it zoomed under.  When it climbed up the other side of the log to see if I was gone, I wasn't.  Peek a boo.  It hid in a  pile of leaves with just the last blue inch of its tail visible.  We played peek a boo two more times before we both got tired.  According to the Texas Monthly Field Guide Series book A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Texas by Judith M. Garrett, my log-jumping partner is a five-lined skinkEumeces fasciatus.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Ghostwriters in the sky

Having achieved a measure of success with my No More Beets campaign, I'm wondering if a similar approach might work to reach the condo recycling offenders.  I seriously don't want to have to walk door-to-door around the complex delivering my spiel about recycling as I did in 2005 when we started the program.  

There's nothing in the condominium covenants that requires residents to be whacko.  I've read it over with a magnifying glass.  Still, many are, and the possibility has been suggested that the complex was built on an ancient burial ground offending the spirits of the deceased.  Many residents don't seem to distinguish between true garbage, recyclables, and Salvation Army donations.  

I would not could not on a train or on a boat or in the rain dumpster dive. I do so do so feel a responsibility to the City of Plano to have our eleven carts filled with actual uncontaminated recyclable materials every Thursday morning.  Lately, my whacko neighbors have been putting way too many furnace filters, welcome mats, rotting carpet, chicken bones, Atkins diet chocolate shake boxes, denim jeans, and ugly lighting fixtures in the recycling carts.  Plus several bushels of family photos with scary Sixties hairdos in Kresge's frames.  

The Kresge's store at Gateway Mall predated the dollar stores of today, and smelled better.  It had a popcorn machine, a photo booth, flat-fold fabrics, parakeets, Halloween costumes and Valentine cards, toys in the right price range for most birthday parties, and document frames for your diplomas and ninth grade photos.

Still obsessing about my mismatched ankles, I am peering at photos for heredity hints.  On the left is my Aunt Shirley, the only woman I knew with painted toenails in my childhood.  Next to her, is my mom, looking an awful lot like me forty-five years later, but with symmetrical ankles. Yikes, myself in the fall of '69.  Then a bizarre, slightly tipsy-looking photo of that Christmas Day just minutes before I El-Kabonged my little brother over the head with the plastic guitar. My mom has bubble hair, but still nice ankles.  My grandmother had terrific ankles into her late eighties, although they were hidden under mauve doubleknit polyester pantsuits.

The chef at Dad's place is my new best friend.  He is working with the dietitian and the hospice nurse to provide Dad meals that are easy to swallow and easy to self-feed.  Some meals Dad is anxious to feed himself.  Other meals definitely not.  Dad's faculties have become crosswired.  He tries to feed himself with both hands at the same time.

Yippy I ay.  Yippy I Oh.  Don't even think about putting that stuff in the recycling cart!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Skinny as a rail

I should be happy as a clam. Nearly all my field guides and bird checklists are strewn on top of an open atlas.  I am reference geek girl, and I have the cape to prove it. If only my big red dictionary could join the party!

Last Thursday after a truly restoring walk near the creek at MY nature preserve, I startled a critter in the trees.  Expecting a glimpse of a quickly departing cottontail, I was surprised to gradually focus on a long-necked and slender brown bird mincing around in the underbrush.  It held its funny, short yellow tail up as it walked like the handle on a gravy boat

My photos of the mysterious bird were miserably unenlightening. No amount of zooming in or fussing with the contrast could reveal the bird's ID.  Pouring over my field guides, the bird looked like a rail, Virginia or Clapper. Scrolling the bird checklists, any rail is an unlikely visitor.  I know my kildeer and plovers, and this isn't one.  A sora?  Maybe.  Not a woodcock, I think. It does not work for Mr. E. H. Harriman of the Union Pacific Railroad.  Butch and Sundance are not dynamiting his train car.

This is my grandma, Halma Fern Burkhead Mastalir.  Skinny, but not "as a rail".  She was not a bag of bones, as she had way too much spark.  She was so skinny she was nicknamed "Slats".

Do you think E. H. Harriman would get himself killed for you - Woodcock?" To get at the safe and its money, an explosive dynamite charge blows a large hole in the wall of the railroad car, injuring Woodcock. Concerned, Butch revives the bloodied agent on the floor of the car: "Woodcock, you alright? Hey! Whatever Harriman's payin' ya, it ain't enough. 

This may be a combination of "skinny as a rake" and "thin as a rail".

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Finally Friday night

It rained.

asymmetrical ankles
blue morpho butterfly
Buick in ecstasy
so long without rain  

This has been a week of frittering, taking refuge in very old stress relief habits of procrastination, compulsive grocery shopping, wandering around in Tuesday Morning, staring out at my patio jungle, and wondering why my ankles don't match.  One is concave, and the other convex.

The hummingbirds are gone. Haven't seen one at the patio feeder in over a week. An anole has claimed their feeder.

Dad is fighting, slapping, kicking, and hitting the nurses and aides.  Also me when I try to help out.

Overslept.  Felt like growling quite a bit. The growl forming in my throat and maxillary sinuses, the ones  behind my cheekbones.  The teeth clenching. The squint taking over my eyes. Used the coffee grinder, and got the morning pot too strong.

The preschoolers learning insects call that a "Blue Martha butterfly".  I can't help thinking of Stewart.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


"I need you to sketch the fish"

Dad beckoned me close to his bed, tried to wink, and whispered, "The rules have changed."  He saw the evening nurse pass by his doorway, and gave a silly little wave with wiggly fingers.  "She knows about the change," he confided.  

Okay, hmmm.  I never know what game is afoot.  Clearly, Dad felt it was important enough to communicate that he was willing to project his voice. He was animated, and twitchy. Dad's white hair was clean, soft, and wafting about like Einstein milkweed fluff, but he denied that the shampoo lady had visited.  He was anxious to see the greeting card in my hand, but alas, it was a card I was writing to mail, not one for him.

I'd been on the phone with the hospice nurse working to get Dad's meals changed to foods and liquids that are easier for him to manage and appetizing.  She has more clout with the dietitian and chef.  Dad lost three pounds in just the past month.  It takes at least 45 minutes to spoon-feed his meal, another sign of decline.  At this point, long-term nutrition and balanced meals don't seem all that important.  Flavor, enjoyment, and ease of swallowing are key.  

As I was feeding Dad his pink strawberry dessert that looked like Amoxicillin parfait, the tuna salad, 2% milk, and slice of bread, he suddenly said, "I need you to sketch the fish."  This sentence was a big speech for him.

Okay, hmmm, huh?  I scanned through a lifetime of fish associations starting with my small wire sculpture fish hanging from his ceiling.  Small fish in Willow Creek where Dad grew up?  Catching bullheads and sunnies at the cabin?  Eating rainbow trout in Estes Park?  The aquarium fish in the dining room across the hall from Dad's room?

What fish, Dad?

"The fish at lunch.  It was shaped," and here he seemed to be forming clay with his hands, "it was shaped like a dead animal."  

Well, then, HUH!  It seemed unlikely that Dad had fish for lunch since I was feeding him tuna salad for supper. 

Dang.  The best I could imagine was a molded salmon mousse at a gourmet buffet table.  Remember those copper fish molds that used to hang on kitchen walls about 1960?  Fish Jello seemed like a really bad idea.

Trying to keep away a mental image of decaying rat I'd seen on a sidewalk recently, I hoped for fancy fish sticks.  My students bring sandwiches cookie-cut into bunny, dinosaur, and heart shapes.  This would not be the first time Dad's chef had a bad attack of creativity.  But it seemed more likely that Dad was flipped out.

Then I recalled David Douglas Duncan's famous photos of Pablo Picasso eating a fish for luncheon. Afterward Picasso made a clay plate, and pressed the fish bones into the clay.  I saw a huge exhibit of Duncan's photos in Austin, probably at the LBJ Presidential Library in the early years of this millennium.

You just can't make this stuff up.  Sure that Dad was in a surreal la-la land, I saw his favorite aide in the next hall on my way out.

Turns out the rules really changed.  Big Red was shifted to a different hall and is not a happy camper.  The residents of Dad's hall are not happy, missing their Big Red.  Plus, she confirmed that Dad had fish for lunch today, although it wasn't "shaped like a dead animal".  Fish twice in a day seems excessive, but Big Red and I just slap our foreheads and shrug our shoulders about the weirdness of Food Service.

Don't change the rules.  Don't play with your food.  Don't mess with my mind!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


If you're limber and you know it

...lick your shoe.  That was the mental image I carried home Wednesday of a large four year old sitting crisscross applesauce at "line time" and licking the bottom of his sneaker.  There must be situations more life-and-death than the preschool "line time" around the "big rug".  During so many years of line times I've seen every possible appendage and digit stuck in every possible orifice, and heard every possible variation of the adjust-my-velcro-shoes percussion solo.  This was the first time I saw a child contorted like a pretzel and still able to lick the bottom of his shoe.  It must be the end times.  Sit crisscross applesauce, contemplate your navel, and kyagb.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Fiddling around for two evenings

There's a wonderful sound of thunder this morning!

Seeing beets on Dad's supper tray again set me off on a rather pointless Photoshopping binge.  If it's not sliced beets, it's boiled red cabbage.  I wanted to send a message to the chef and dietician, but couldn't afford to hire a skywriter.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


O! Crap and pooper scooping! OR, Oh, crap! And pooper scooping...

My weekend has had parentheses of fecal ephiphanies, which may qualify this post as graffiti with punctuation. I offer these revelations:

--Constipated young children tend to sit on the pot rolling toilet paper mummy-style around their hand until they need it.  This can result in serious clogging, and necessitate use of a plunger (not on the child).

--Swimming in summer lakes can lead to ER visits for viral or bacterial meningitis.  I was almost as obsessed with the discovery of brain-eating amoeba in the Sixties as I was with man-eating grizzly bears:  

Naegleria fowleri infects people by entering the body through the nose. This typically occurs when people go swimming or diving in warm freshwater places, like lakes and rivers.

--It is impossible to look elegant carrying a plastic bag of dog poop, or bending over to collect same, or trying to snap a photo of an unknown condo dog-owner and make a quick get-away.

--I forgot to write the next installment of the dog art projects as promised.

--If you are going to replace your toilet, please pay Home Depot to haul the old one away when the new one is delivered.  Nobody wants to see your old potty sitting by the dumpster waiting for a nocturnal elf to cart it away.  Nobody wants to contemplate nocturnal toilet elves.  Your condo association will end up paying for removal of the potty, and that will impact your due$.  This adds new meaning to "bulk pick-up" and "impacted bowels".

--The typical American eats twelve grams of fiber per day.  The RDA is twenty-five grams of fiber.  This is why "Americans can't poop," as I learned at a recent child care workshop presented by nutritionist Coco Frey.

--crap Look up crap at Dictionary.com

"defecate" 1846 (v.), 1898 (n.), from one of a cluster of words generally applied to things cast off or discarded (e.g. "weeds growing among corn" (early 15c.), "residue from renderings" (late 15c.), underworld slang for "money" (18c.), and in Shropshire, "dregs of beer or ale"), all probably from M.E. crappe "grain that was trodden underfoot in a barn, chaff" (mid-15c.), from M.Fr. crape"siftings," from O.Fr. crappe, from M.L. crappa, crapinum "chaff." Sense of "rubbish, nonsense" also first recorded 1898. Despite folk etymology insistence, not from Thomas Crapper (1837-1910) who was, however, a busy plumber and may have had some minor role in the development of modern toilets. The name Crapper is a northern form of Cropper (attested from 1221), an occupational surname, obviously, but the exact reference is unclear.
 --Thomas Crapper was born a couple decades before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Although he provided royal plumbing solutions, he was never knighted.

--Our Wednesday art projects were not stellar, but the students love David Shannon's book, Good Boy, Fergus!  I read it practicing to meet my new grandpuppy.*
--My students also adore the poems and illustrations in Good Dog:

In this heart-stealing picture book, fine artist Robert Rahway Zakanitch gives us 16 masterful, soulful, impossibly expressive portraits of dogs, and Maya Gottfried wonderfully captures their voices and inner personalities in 16 enchanting poems. It₂s a doggie delight! These dogs beg to be patted, tickled, scratched, and ruffled. Which one will be your best friend?

--This is another delightful rhyming book that didn't suggest a workable art project.  My youngest students like to hear it after nap time.

* Not yet carrying around a tiny photo album of precious above average grandpuppy photos, but it's getting close. Maybe close enough to carry the darn plastic collection bag on walkies... 

(Used with permission of grandpuppy's parents.)

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

Poetic litter? Making a statement? OR fact-checking my graffiti with punctuation

Wasting away again in blogger fact-check land.  Searching for my lost file of art shows.  I could have sworn I saw Millais' "Ophelia" at the National Gallery of Art on my very first trip to D.C. in 1986. This is not a Jimmy Buffett problem.  But it's my own damn fault.  Maybe it was the 1997 trip. I know I walked out of the Pre-Raphaelite exhibit and sat in the East Garden Court stunned at the beauty of the art.

My first reaction to the white flowers at the water line  of the Oak Point lake was not awe at the beauty.  It looked like litter to me.  The long-stemmed roses, lilies, hydrangeas, daisies, and spider mums were evenly spaced, not a bouquet that had floated away.  Placed, not strewn. Wedding?  Funeral?  Pledging ceremony?

A fisherman pondering the flowers asked me, "Do you think someone was making a statement?"  It dawned on me that the couple walking up the trail to the parking lot as I was starting down had seemed very relieved to tell each other, "Well, that's done."  It was done.  But what was it? The rest of the park visitors were left to wonder. Ophelia didn't mention these particular flowers, but they seem to be for remembrance.

Driving out to Oak Point Nature Preserve for my desperately-needed mental health walk, I heard  an NPR review of the new movie, "Contagion" on the radio:

When Elliott Gould, in a cameo as a lone-wolf scientist, launches a zinger at Law -- "Blogging isn't journalism! It's graffiti with punctuation!"

Maybe, but I do try to fact-check!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Candy Land and the chips fall where they may

It ain't May.  Everywhere I walked this week the chips were falling.  Late afternoon sun made the dried leaves and grasses especially golden.  This photo shows the Willow Springs Trail at Oak Point Nature Preserve and Park here in Plano, Texas.

Took a long mental health walk there Wednesday, and came away pretty crazed for potato chips and Mom's sour cream dip made with a Good Seasons Italian dressing packet, preferably with a cold Fresca containing cyclamates and an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea on the black and white t.v. David Hedison as Commander Lee Crane was my first t.v. crush, which might be why I enjoy a Clive Cussler Dirk Pitt ocean adventure now and then.  Shhhhh!  Please don't tell.

"Causes cancer in rats" took my Fresca away in 1969, which was already a very weird year.  I blamed the rats, and Nixon, of course.

I scuffed along the chip trail, no Pringles or Baked Lays thank you very much, remembering my 1950s era Candy Land game board with the Valentine hearts, candy canes, gum drops, spooky brittle witch house, lollipop lane, molasses swamp, and gingerbread house.  Where was the Canyon of Potato Chips?

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

The work that must be done

Labor Day weekend is leading into a presidential speech about job creation.  Like many families, our holiday dinner of barbecue pork, potato salad, corn-on-the-cob, and iced tea included job discussions.  I spent the weekend with wonderfully bright, educated, articulate and frustrated young adults.  They are part of the generation that is unlikely to achieve the standard of living of their ancestors, and who will struggle to pay off the student loans that should have guaranteed a middle class income.

We all agreed that the best job in the world is creating the special birthday Google homepages.  Thank heaven Freddy Mercury would have been sixty-five on the Tuesday after the long weekend.  That was the boost that got me going back into the work world.

Perhaps the very most "shovel-ready" job is maintaining a healthy family. It is time to cut the workday to seven hours, or the workweek to thirty-six hours so parents can have more quality hours with their offspring.

When parents can be parents, it cuts costs for education, health care, and child care.  When family members care for their elderly similar savings result.

Don't create jobs.  Recognize the work that is already being done.  Help families live with one or 1.5 full time  income.  Improve opportunities for part-time workers who also raise children or care for elderly.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


"It's elementary, my booby Blab"

Today's main mystery involves my dad, Howie.  We were having our usual suppertime failure to communicate.  I sought to ascertain if Dad desired more of the mac and cheese, asparagus, milk, or ground ham.  He had already stuffed the entire brownie into his mouth, and had driven the fork tines repeatedly along the edge of the asparagus spears with his left hand in a strange ritual while holding his spoon vertical in the mushroom soup with his right. Dad grabbed my arm with his very cold, skinny, white fingers, and said clearly, "Let me show you what I want."  He proceeded to tear his paper napkin into thin strips.  He was sharp enough to know that the napkin, like all paper, tears best from one particular edge.  He had found that edge.  Sometimes he held the strips of napkin and seemed to roll the paper.  Was he rolling a cigarette?  He hasn't smoked in four decades.  Did he need confetti?  A ticker-tape parade?  Toilet paper?  Bandages?  Noodles?  A shredder?  Comic strips?  Strips of bacon?  A stripper?  A fresh drinking straw and ice water?  For all I could tell, Dad wanted Gypsy Rose Lee to bring him another brownie and realign his hospital bed to true north.

When I finally gave up, Dad was creasing a Kleenex for an origami clue.  My brain hurt.  I had to turn him over to the detached professionals.

I'm reading The Sherlockian, a middling mystery jumping time zones between Arthur Conan Doyle, James Barrie, and Bram Stoker trying to solve serial Whitechapel murders, and a modern Baker Street Irregular obsessive doofus trying to find his inner Holmes.  Them that can't shouldn't criticize, I guess.  And I can't write or solve mysteries.  My inner detective is defective.

For over five decades I've been saying, "It's elementary, my booby Blab."  Why, Watson?  Because Dad and I were fond of the Quick Draw McGraw* cartoon show by Hanna-Barbera in about 1960.  So fond that I  El Kabonged my little brother over the head with the brand new plastic guitar he received from Dad's boss, Mr. Schaumberg, for Christmas.  This was a bad big sister thing to do.  Thanks to Wikipedia for helping me sort out the Snooper & Blabber cartoons, if not the napkin strips.  It feels good to own up to my transgression.

*The series featured 3 cartoons per episode, one each by Quick Draw McGraw & Baba Looey, father and son dog duo Augie Doggie & Doggie Daddy and cat and mouse detectives Snooper & Blabber.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Kite therapy

Twenty years later, the Woolly Mammoth still likes to fly kites.  He is my hero for cleaning out his bedroom this Labor Day weekend, and for reminding me how effective kite therapy can be for most of what ails me.

It will take practice to get the hang of the two string kite.  My shoulders feel the effort this morning.  My son and his girlfriend demonstrated the technique, and I was an enthusiastic untangler and rewinder.  Happily, I didn't fall down into the deep cracks in the dry meadow trail.  The clouds held no rain, and there's none in the ten-day forecast.  Still, we are celebrating the end of triple-digit days.

We saw a good-sized snake closer to Rowlett Creek walking on the Caddo Trail at Oak Point Nature Preserve.  By good-sized I mean imagine stringing eight toilet paper tubes together.  That big.  The drought is increasing snake encounters.  My neck got a good workout looking up at the kite and down for snakes!

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Good dog!

Making art and sharing books.  I remember now what I like about teaching.  Choosing a theme and exploring it with the kids through many different mediums is fun and stretching.

At the Parent Meeting one new mom asked me about art class.  Her daughter told her we made a dog out of a potato.  And, yes, we did.  We make lots of things out of potatoes, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets.  Drawing a baked potato seems much less threatening to kids than drawing an oval.  Nuggets are easier than circles, and hot dogs are so useful.

This week we managed to talk about stove safety, the importance of breakfast, and whether dogs can really wiggle on the moon.  We got a few wiggles out, too, reading Doreen Cronin's book, Wiggle.  This book is excellent for those of us who drag our saggy carcasses to the coffee maker every morning.

Do you wiggle in the morning?  Do you wiggle out of bed?
If you wiggle with your breakfast, it might wind up on your head.

This boy is eight or nine, and put an apron on the dog.  That's quite the gourmet stovetop with all those burners.
 A four year-old girl's pancake landed on the dog's head.  
This new student, a six year-old boy, seems to cook with a welding mask and tennis racket.

More good dog books and art in the next few weeks.  Now for more coffee.

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


Smoking Lady

So grateful tonight that my dad is in the care of "Big Red", his favorite aide.  She would never let this happen to him or any of her other charges:

Finally leaving school after the annual Parent Meeting at 8:30, all in a rush to pick up the Woolly Mammoth and his lovely friendgirl at the airport, I spotted Smoking Lady in the dark parking lot.  She was being assisted by two people, and was obviously agitated.  I ran back into the school and snagged our office manager to help me investigate.

Smoking Lady is a common sight walking around our school and the surrounding small office buildings.  She lives in one of the nearby senior facilities, The Village. Smoking Lady's pace and posture mark her as being "not quite right" in the head, although she obviously has a lot of freedom to wander outdoors in all weather.  Still, she should not be out in the parking lot in the dark in her muumuu and shoeless being assisted by a woman in a Carter blood drive t-shirt.  Where had the man gone?

He had gone to ask the skilled care facility if they were missing a woman.  Specifically, a woman who had fallen down the ravine by the creek several hours ago and was covered in bruises, scrapes, bites, and allergic rashes.  A poor woman who was desperately trying to get into one of the office buildings to "wash with soap and water".  A poor woman who was afraid to walk back into her building past the nursing station as she was because THEY would never let her walk out again, and she would "miss seeing the little wild animals".

Our office manager did a beautiful job of calming Smoking Lady and steering her toward her nursing home.  Then I took over holding Smoking Lady's left arm while the blood drive stranger held her right.  Staff members recognized Smoking Lady when we got her inside the building.  In bright light her injuries were significant--a huge bruise covered her left cheek; another bruise on her neck showed the impact of a necklace in her fall; her arms were bright pink and puffy from allergies to weeds or poison ivy; large bloody and oozy scrapes showed on her face and arms.  Dirt all over.  So, so sad and scary.

The blood drive woman and her husband agreed to answer questions for the REPORT.  I needed to leave, to wash the blood, dirt, itchiness and outrage off my arm.  I needed to drive to the airport, but I didn't know the punch code to open the door out of the nursing home.  The staff had disappeared.  We can hope they were all tending to Smoking Lady's injuries and wondering why they hadn't a clue she was missing.

No wondering for me why I'm having a thirty year flashback to an "Edge of Night" soap opera episode with Beth Bryson and Matthew Sharkey.  Nursing home noir.

And, by the way, another good reason for not smoking...

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder


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