Al Power sent this in just before he left to lecture in Asia…
I’m on my way to Singapore, and reflecting on a journal entry that Jamie
Babcock (one of our social workers) sent to me. Grace lived at St.
John’s Home and passed away a few years back. She was an English
major in college and an avid public speaker. And she journaled.
Many years before coming to us, she spent some time in another nursing
home out of state, and wrote about the “admission evaluation”. Here is
“Heaven knows it is hard enough to go to a nursing home—but the ultimate
insult is the IQ test…One morning a smiley lady appeared in my room with
some papers on a clip board, and said something about needing to do an
evaluation of me…
“The smiley lady began in a very slow soft voice—‘Now Dear, can you tell
me what day of the week it is?’
“Oh Lord, when my cobwebby days are all alike, how can I tell if it’s
Tuesday or Wednesday—and does it matter? The days of a different daily
routine are gone. I used to know it was Monday because that was the day
I did the laundry, and Tuesday was the day I did the ironing. Friday I
cleaned and scrubbed the porches; Saturday was the day I baked pies, or
made a cake for Sunday dinner. No more—now my days are like dull gray
paint with streaks of black and getting darker. No I don’t know if it’s
Tuesday or Wednesday, and does it matter?
“The smiley lady tries again. ‘Now, Dear, can you tell me the month of
“Well, I know it’s spring because the lilacs and the apple trees are in
bloom—could be the last week of April or the middle of May.
(Later, she completes the “serial sevens”, which surprises the
evaluator.) “I am getting annoyed with this smiley lady and her nonsense
tests. What is the need to count backwards—why doesn’t she ask me to
count forwards by 5s like we used to playing ‘hide and seek’—coming
ready or not?
“Next she shows me a list of names…Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Arsenio
Hall? No, I never heard of him—how about Monty Hall calling ‘Come on
“She keeps trying. Have I heard of Sylvester Stallone? No? In a
condescending tone she explains that he’s a movie star. Movie stars? Let
me tell you about Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca…and
once as a very special treat, my husband took me to see Katherine
Hepburn on stage in Jane Eyre. There she was in a copper colored silk
taffeta, carrying a bowl of yellow daffodils. I can see her yet. The
smiley lady was not impressed…
“Did I know Rush Limbaugh, Larry King, Cokey Roberts or Dan Rather? She
told me they were all news reporters and commentators. ‘Oh, I said, you
mean like Lowell Thomas, Edward R. Murrow and Ernie Pyle’. She shook her
head and slowly put the clipboard away…
“But she didn’t ask me what it was like growing up on a farm—going to a
two-room school—how we got along during the Depression—the agony and
worry when my brothers marched off to World War II..ask me about my
wedding day—or the day my father died—or the birth of our daughters—ask
me about the peaceful sunrises and sunsets on Lake Erie.
“No, smiley lady, I do not know if it’s Tuesday or Wednesday, but I am
not completely stupid, no matter what your evaluation sheet says. What
is this test for and what does it mean? Do I have to pass your IQ test
to string some beads together?
“Go away, smiley lady. Leave me alone with my memories—memories of a
lifetime of harder tests than these—and I passed them all. Memories that
fill my days and nights, and give me a full measure of joy and tears.
No I don’t know the day of the week or the month of the year…
“I remember what it is like to be young, but you have no idea what it is
like to be old.”