Traverse City Record-Eagle

Generation Why

June 13, 2011

Life Memory: Visit makes me see differently

Editor's note: Benzie County high school history students wrote essays for the Bruce Catton Historical Awards, honoring the author who won the 1954 Pulitzer Prize for "A Stillness at Appomattox." His memoir, "Waiting for the Morning Train," is about growing up in Benzonia. The awards were presented at an April ceremony. This essay won first place.

By Emily Swander

Special to the Record-Eagle

The smell of the old drifted through the halls of the Maples in Frankfort, Michigan. We moved through the halls passing room after room. Glancing into rooms I saw many different things: Some people were watching TV, others eating an afternoon snack.

The chatter of nurses helping the elderly with their daily lives surrounded me. We passed by a window; outside was gloomy, but the trees were beautiful shades of red, brown and yellow. The air outside was thick with October.

I noticed my mom had slowed down. I soon knew why; the room was approaching. My arms were very tired; I had been carrying this huge box for more than 10 minutes; it must have weighed 30 or 40 pounds. On the wall next to the door was a colorful little plaque with the name of the resident residing in this room.

My grandma sat on the bed while my aunt paced the room nervously talking to herself.

My great-grandma sat in her wheelchair in the middle of the room.

She looked so unlike herself. In that instant I barely recognized her. She seemed so different; her usual smirky smile wasn't there. Her hair was always curled and perfected by the Cricket Hair Salon in Beulah. It now was just a fuzzy mess atop her head. Her eyes looked sad; she looked up and saw the box that I had been carrying. I set it down and watched her face light up. Suddenly in that instant she wasn't just an old lady in a nursing home; she was Nana again. She almost seemed the same again.

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