I never saw this show in it’s entirety, but I fought for a lady’s right to watch it. Back in the 90’s when this show was on, I worked in a nursing home. This was back when I had the ridiculous notion that I was going to be a nurse….even though I am horrible with specifics, math, science….and don’t really buy into the drug company notions about how things should be treated…everyone and their brother told me I should be a nurse..anyways…
As a nursing assistant I became close to two ladies in particular, Leona and Marian. I’d even come up on my days off just to visit with the two of them. Marian never married, she didn’t have any living family and all her friends had died. Leona had family, but they all lived out west and she hadn’t seen them in years.
Leona was a dark haired lady, she was probably gorgeous as a younger woman, probably a Lucy Lawless type. Marian was small and a little mousy, like Gabrielle in the show, but clearly she had stories to tell. They were both spitfires, Marian would call me at home and it was as normal as if it was my best friend calling.
They didn’t like all the silly activities in the home, they had no desire to play catch with a beach ball, or sit in on bingo.”It was rigged so everyone could win something they don’t need” Leona said. But, she’d go sometimes and win a little stuffed toy to give to my daughter. My two oldest spent time with these ladies too, we’d pop in to see them, with drawings or flowers.
Xena was their favorite show. It was a ritual, they’d set their chairs up and send one of the nursing assistants for coffee and cookies. Everyone knew not to bother those two until the show was over, or at least at commercial.
That is until the time slot was moved back an hour.
One night I was at home and got a call from Leona, she was mad, really mad. It seems the nursing assistant on duty made them go to bed before Xena came on. They were not even allowed to watch it in bed. Lights out. This was ridiculous, it had to be a mistake. I went to work and was told the new policy. Insane. These are adults. They have lost everything, their freedom, homes, family, friends…who are WE to say they can’t watch TV at night. I made a fuss, I secretly turned on Xena for my friends. The director found out and I was warned. whatever. It was a stupid rule, it only made it easier for the nurses on duty, it had nothing to do with quality of life. Where did these people have to go in the morning that they had to be in bed asleep at 10 pm.
Then it happened. Leona’s “neighbor” in the room next door died. This tough old broad (it’s okay, she would have liked that title) always sat in the hall outside her room and played solitaire, or poker with whoever she could find. One night while I was on duty, she had a heart attack. I was expecting to see nurses rush to action. Maybe a doctor called, or the ambulance… No, the nurse moved her to her room and there she died. It seems she had a “no resuscitate” order in place. I didn’t know those existed.
While I understood, in theory, the nursing home was for some a final stop, it didn’t really sink in until I saw this woman die. She wasn’t the first to die, but she was the first I saw that no effort was taken to save her. That was it for my nursing career. I quit being a nursing assistant the next day. I moved to the activity department and blocked out reality as much as possible. I ran bingo games, and planned parties, tossed a beach ball and painted nails. Leona and Marian thought it was pretty funny and actually started attending all the silly activities.
Leona and Marian never got to see Xena again, and it still hurts to think about that. They both died within months of each other. I wasn’t there for either of their last moments because I had moved an hour from the nursing home by then and only stayed in contact through occasional visits and phone calls.
The point of the story is……well, I am not quite sure. It’s just a story that was a building block in my life.
Some themes….Fear- Growing old doesn’t scare me. I am looking forward to seeing the other side of 100. Nursing homes scare me.
Anger- Losing freedom makes me mad. Treating elderly people like their opinions don’t count makes me mad. Even if what they want doesn’t make sense, Xena was the last thing you might think they want, but just ask them…they are PEOPLE.
Love- You never know where you might find a friend.