Linn’s Laundry Ladies

Just as air, food and water are necessary for life, clean laundry is necessary for a nursing home’s existence. Maria Periquito, Cheryl Miller and Barbara Branca are Linn Health Care Center’s three laundry room workers.  They keep every washable article clean and tidy.  Each day two of the three are scheduled to begin work at 7 AM, attacking a mountain of laundry all day until they punch out at 3PM. In a typical day, they wash 10 loads of laundry in the 60 pound washer and another 10 loads in the 50 pound washer. Three huge industrial dryers are always running simultaneously in the laundry room, which registers about 80 degrees warm by the afternoon.  The bins of dry laundry that need folding are as seemingly endless as Rumpelstiltskin’s mountain of straw and the service that they provide is gold to Linn Health Care Center. Not only do these three women do the laundry for 84 residents, but also clean all the linens, jonnies, towels and bed curtains at Linn Health Care Center.  In addition to that, they wash, dry and fold all the table cloths for Winslow Gardens’ dining room every day.  They also wash all the rags and mops for the housekeeping department, following strict health department guidelines in the process. These laundry ladies have to have good organizational skills and attention to detail. Maria explains the system to me: they fill up four large carts and two smaller ones by the end of each day to deliver back to one of the nursing home floors.  One day they wash clothes for the short term rehab residents on the third floor...

Lora’s Memory Lane

Lora, age 98, sits reading her romance novel in her oversized armchair, covered in a pink gingham throw that she sewed herself. She is receptive to being interviewed and appreciates the company, escorting me down her memory lane.  Reminiscing about her childhood on a farm in North Providence, she excitedly tells me about the good old days when her Italian father slaughtered the pig on Sundays and invited the extended family for dinner, serving his home-made wine.  They had chickens and goats and lots of vegetables in their garden.  Her mother would get up at 4:00 AM to weed and had a kitchen in the basement for canning.  “I really had it so good and never realized it until later in life”, Lora says wistfully. She married and had a son and a daughter and was always the dutiful mother and wife: cooking and cleaning and doing the laundry and sewing. Lora still has a sewing machine in her apartment and boasts about how she made all her daughter’s dresses, until her daughter turned 11 and wanted store-bought clothes.  I look around her one room apartment at Winslow Gardens where she has lived for the past ten years and notice how it shines and everything is perfectly in its place.  Just like Lora: who always looks perfectly put together – stylishly dressed.  When asked how she looks so young, she credits Oil of Olay skin cream that she religiously used.  Looking at her wrinkle-free face, I can’t imagine that she ever endured any hardship in life, but after a while she reveals more. “I used to take two buses...

A Perfect Day With Mary

“It’s like a hotel here! What’s to complain about?”  Mary Silva tells me in her cheerful upbeat voice, “They clean my room and cook for me and I don’t have to do anything.” She moved to St. Germain Assisted Living six months ago. Mary told me a story about how she had lost all her possessions in a disaster that made her homeless.  She then moved in with her daughter for a year until it reached a point where she needed her own space; “I’m 92 and don’t even own a blanket” she would say to herself. Born and raised in Manhattan, Mary was married until her husband’s untimely death at the age of 59. “I was married for 39 years and have been alone for 34 years.” Mary observes.  Three children came from that marriage which has now blossomed into five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and even one great-great grandchild.  Best of all they all live in the area. Her husband was a pastry chef and ran a bakery in Lincoln called the Saan-Joet Bakery. Mary worked right alongside him. “Was it difficult to work with your husband all day long?” I ask her, ever the nosy interviewer. She wisely replied, “I ran the front and he ran the back and that’s how we got along!” He then became allergic to flour and went to work for Texas Instruments.  Mary took her retail skills to Peerless in Lincoln until the store closed.  That’s when she decided to retire from work. These days Mary spends her time reading mysteries, thrillers and love stories, which must be the reason her mind...

Norman – the Karate Kid

  Norman Baird was a resident at Winslow Gardens for the past five years.  His wife, Jane, lived in the adjacent Linn Health Care Center, and that is one of the reasons he chose to live nearby.  After he lost his license to drive, living next door to Jane made their daily visits possible.  They were devoted to each other, saying goodnight and “I love you” by phone each night before bed.   Sadly, Jane passed away in 2014 and Norman continued on for another year, until making his departure from this world this past January. I had the pleasure of many interactions with Norman over the past two years.  He was always so pleasant and cheerful.  He would participate in the men’s breakfasts and the weekly exercise classes, lifting the hand weights and kicking from his wheelchair.  What a trooper! As I got to know Norman better, I discovered that he had quite a few interesting hobbies over the years to include building ships inside bottles and had even been in a car race!  But I think that Norman’s most impressive hobby was taking karate lessons in his senior years.  With Norman’s physical limitations and advanced years, he was a remarkable karateka with a true “fighter’s spirit”.  And isn’t that what the martial arts is all about?  Fighting our own limitations with persistence and earnestness.   Watch the video of Norman talking about his karate hobby, synched with footage from his karate...

Amazing Myra

I sit with Myra on the couch at her Arbor Hill apartment and she shows me her artwork and the notecards that she makes to raise money for five different charities. They are primarily nonprofits that help victims of human trafficking, as well as her church, Victory Assembly of God. “You’re very talented, “I comment while sifting through her mountains of artwork. “Only through God,” Myra replies humbly, “I write poetry too.” “I have a poem somewhere around here called “Where’d I Put It?” she chuckles as she gets up and peaks in a few folders on her dresser, “but I can’t find it right now.” She chuckles some more. I am wondering if she is pulling a joke on me or if she really wrote a poem about that. I’m a little naïve that way. Myra suggests to me that we should purchase exercise equipment and open a gym for the residents. She tells me that she used to be in the army and enjoys working out. “I have to take it easy for now because I just had my first heart attack,” she matter-of-factly relays as if she planned to have several more. I marvel because she is almost 93 years old. Growing up in Albany, New York, Myra was raised as a Methodist.   She has dedicated herself to God and spends every Sunday afternoon handing out tracts about Christianity because “all the trouble in the world is all in the Bible.” “I’m never too old to do God’s work,” she tells me, “You know, it’s incredible how God works through people to accomplish things. Wow! Really amazing!”...

Humor – the ties that bind

Bill Murphy, Winslow Gardens Resident God bless those with a sense of humor! They spice up the bland, stuffiness of every day existence. These folks are the ones who seek to brighten your day – even if your day is going just fine. Bill Murphy says good morning to me from the corner of the empty dining room where he sits after breakfast hours. He has fixed himself a cup of coffee from the open drink station and greets folks who walk through the dining room to go from one building to the other. Today I decide to go over and chat with him for a few minutes. Bill greets me with a joke: “What did one eyeball say to the other eyeball?” I scramble back into the chaos of disjointed memory cells and amaze myself as I retrieve the answer and reply, “Between us, something smells!” “That’s great! You remember!” Bill praises me. I’m feeling a sense of pride because remembering jokes is not one of my strong suits. “Here is another one,” Bill tests me again: “What goes up the road and down the road, but doesn’t move?” This one I don’t remember him telling me before but I can be logical at times and reply, “The lines?” “That’s right! You’re doing great!” Bill is building my confidence in myself. Who knows? Maybe that standup comedy career I’m dreaming of isn’t as far into the future as I think. Maybe my lifelong dream of being friends with Jim Carrey is on the horizon… “One more,” Bill says, “What’s the difference between an in-law and an outlaw?” Uh...