Surprise Awaking This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   When my great-great aunt moved into Seventy Five State Street last December, I didn't know quite what to expect. I conceived of the place as an old nursing home where residents would need help to go to the bathroom and where the staff was cruel and inhumane.

I thought I might be exaggerating a bit, so to prove my assumptions incorrect, my aunt and I ventured to see Aunty Evelyn. I found Seventy Five State Street to be an independent living kind of place, a "retirement community," as the plaque in front read.

Aunty Evelyn's room, on the fourth floor, overlooked Portland Harbor and the Victoria Mansion. The view was gorgeous. Her two rooms with private bath were ideal for someone in her 80s. The plush couch and upholstered chairs made a lavish finale to the already inviting room. You could tell she liked it.

After our visit, all seemed calm in our vast, gossipy family until my grandmother brought up the idea of my volunteering at the "retirement community." It was nice to visit, but to spend hours talking to old people and hearing their long, depressing stories of family and wars didn't excite me, especially since it would be during my summer vacation. However, it was still winter, and with my busy life, I put the suggestion in the back of my mind. But by May, my grandmother was really excited about her "ingenious idea." She continued on her little crusade and took it upon herself to talk to the director. When I found she had done this without my consent, I was appalled. But that's my grandmother!

The director turned out to be an extremely thoughtful and caring person. Surprisingly, people recognized her and spoke to her about their daily problems, anything from food to activities. Both she and the entire place had a real warmth.

After scheduling my first day, I became a little apprehensive. I wasn't sure if the residents would accept me, much less be glad I was there to help. When I finally did go in for Beano on that mild, summer afternoon, I was surprised, again, by what I saw. Instead of a large Beano hall crowded with whiny senior citizens, I found a warm, inviting center. I was immediately drawn into the nicely wallpapered, air-conditioned room. Bouquets of arranged flowers lined the piano and walls.

For the next hour and a half the seniors kept a close watch on their three Beano cards as the numbers were slowly drawn. Even though winning the kitty of a whole dollar doesn't seem like much to us, it makes a valid conversation starter at the next social.

Over the next two months, I spent more than a 100 hours at Seventy Five State Street doing Beano, craft work, social gatherings, picnics and talking to people one-on-one. The adventure, despite my previous beliefs, turned out to be well worth my time and efforts.

It's an awesome feeling to walk down the halls of Seventy Five State Street and be stopped by a resident who doesn't always know your name, but who knows you're someone who cares. fl


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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