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In Memoria Semper Viridis (standard:other, 3245 words)
Author: EutychusAdded: Jun 15 2005Views/Reads: 2261/1579Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Not everyone you meet in a nursing home has a vacant Alzheimer's stare about them. Fictionalized account of some discussions I had in such a location some twenty years ago with contemporary updating.

“You really enjoy this avocation of yours,” the wife said as she watched
the last of the details go into place. He cautiously powdered the 
greasepaint and flashed her a modest grin that was greatly exaggerated 
by the makeup. He slipped on a pair of white gloves and placed the 
makeup kit in the bottom drawer. “Now to the florist?” 

Lauren, the owner/operator of Floral Creations, had been donating a
dozen carnations per week to his cause for close to a year now. He 
would stop by the unpretentious little flower boutique in town, gather 
his bundle, and catch a stare from whoever happened to notice him. 
Because it was nearing that time of the year for the Insane Clown Posse 
to play their yearly concert out at the Nelson Ledges Quarry Park, the 
stares were longer than usual. 

Twenty minutes later and a dozen miles down the road, he entered the
foyer of the county nursing home. The woman at the main desk 
acknowledged him with a smile and handed him a list of residents who 
might appreciate a visit. Regardless of the suggestions, he always 
tried to say hello to everyone, which was a bit of a challenge for a 
silent clown. He gave her a little wave and began his rounds. 

As he approached the first floor lounge, he reflected on just how much
fun this was. He was able to get away with so much that would never be 
permitted in polite society were he not wearing the makeup. As the 
nurse with the outrageous beehive hairdo left the lounge, he pantomimed 
a pile of hair for his own head and feigned losing his balance from 
being top heavy. Those who understood the humor laughed aloud because 
the nurse in question happened to take herself too seriously, making 
her an easy target for the resident's scorn and frustration. 

He paused at the wheelchairs of two of the barely ambulatory in the
lounge. He searched the faces for some sense that there was actually 
someone in there. He tried his best to entertain, but sometimes there 
was just no point when dealing with the later stages of Alzheimer's. 
Nevertheless, try! 

As he worked his way through the rooms of those unable to make it to the
lounge, he fell into the habit of using old jokes. He hit a supply 
closet, appropriated several of the urinal collection bottles that hang 
off the bed rails of the male patients, and used them as vases. The 
ladies were either shocked or delighted. The beehive shook her head but 
managed to smile anyway. 

He eventually arrived at the room of one of the most puzzling residents
he had ever encountered. The old guy had a stare, but it was not the 
vacant stare of the Alzheimer types. It was the intense stare of 
someone working a difficult word search puzzle or the Cryptoquote 
puzzle in the local paper, and he was doing neither. 

“Look, Carl. It's the man mit der funny face,” Carl's roommate

Carl looked at the doorway and seemed to relax a bit. The intensity
subsided and he beckoned the clown in with his hand. 

Before engaging Carl, he presented the roommate, Lou,  with a carnation
in a vase that stood ready at his bedside. He picked up a newspaper 
sitting by the bed and pretended to read it for a moment. Then he burst 
into a flurry of activity that ended with a paper hat made of newsprint 
resting on the Lou's bald head. While Lou indulged in a chorus of “My 
Hat It Has Three Corners”, he moved over to Carl's bed. 

Carl was smiling at the performance. “You know, young man, you make a
nice memory.” 

He broke with custom, leaned in close to Carl, and spoke. 

“Thanks. But how many people remember from week to week?” 

“He does. The memory blurs a bit by Thursday, but he will always
recognize ‘the man with the funny face'. You could probably do the same 
shtick each week and it would be new to him, but he remembers you.” 

“I never considered that I don't really need a big repertoire. But the
cleaning staff would tire of paper hats after a while.” 

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