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My Nursing Home Journey This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

      The monotonous droning of the machines spilled from the tiny rooms. Coughs and yells from the residents echoed throughout the corridor. The woman next to me seemed puzzled by a nurse’s simple command: “Maria, tie your shoes.” A man in a wheelchair stared out the window. No matter where I looked, I saw a lonely individual seeking companionship.

I began my nursing home journey in the dementia unit. The folks there were more remarkable, entertaining, and interesting than I expected. Each had an unmistakable peculiarity. There was Rose, who couldn’t remember her own identity but could think of a song for any word you said. There was Larry, who couldn’t recall his son’s name but could recite math facts as if they defined who he was. Eugene had a passion for checkers and played the same way every time.

I knew when I touched on a good point of discussion because (even if they didn’t realize it related to their lives) there was a convincing glint in their eyes that let me know that beneath the confusion, I had freed a memory. And even if they could not fully recognize it, a vague familiarity was settling beneath the loneliness, confusion, and doubt. A certain hope emerged.

For the hour I spent there each week, my heart was both shattered and uplifted. Every Monday for two years I punched in the code, opened the door, and entered a world where no one knew my name. I reintroduced myself to the same people every Monday, and though I had no identity for that hour, I had a purpose. To the residents I held an unfamiliar significance. It seemed that for the one-hour friendship that I gave, they gave me a certain breath of hope to my own life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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