1. MAUDIE REPORTS FROM GENTLE JAIL


Here I am where I always am, but I don’t feel like the person I usually feel like. I suppose that is common among jail birds. They tell me to count my blessings, so I do, but I feel empty. They tell me to be optimistic, to look at the bright side. I do, but I feel gloomy. They tell me to play cards and table games. I do, but I’m still lonely.

Okay, nothing wrong with their advice I guess; it’s the simplistic advice I gave people before I moved here. This institution is officially called “Golden Garden” but I call it “Gentle Jail.” I’ll explain.

First, though, credit where credit is due.

I will give them “A+” for effort. The place is clean and the meals are good. The staff is okay if you like a regimented lifestyle. But I’m bored. Playing Go Fish all day or just existing until the next Bingo Day is not my idea of living well.

I’d like to learn. I’d like to help other people or to be useful in some way; any old way. To have someone or something to care about. To care for. Not as an ego trip, but to help them and grow the inner me.

Last Sunday we had a group come to sing to us. No kidding, they said that, “We’re here to sing to you.” Not with us, to us. No conversation, no one-on-one, nothing personal. I was just a small piece of an audience to them. They didn’t even talk to us. Were they here to cheer us up or for us to cheer them on? I assume they meant well, but really? What was their deep down motivation?

Years ago I used to go sing like that with my church. The leader told us, “Most of these folks have dementia and won’t understand anything, but they will like the music so sing your hearts out!” We did. We enjoyed singing and we left feeling very good—about ourselves. Chalk up another win for the righteous. Nonsense!

Okay, maybe I can’t remember all that I wrote in the first paragraph up there, but trust me, I can go back and read it, understand every word, and fix mistakes of grammar or improve the rhetoric of the whole piece. Rhetoric. How about that word? Dementia makes you forgetful, not dumb.

The way the staff treats us they must think we are dumb. They treat us like little kids. Some of the staff; not all of them. Credit where credit is due. Now, right there is an example—I said “credit where credit is due” twice, close together. From a little thing like that, a CNA might write down “Maudie is beginning to repeat herself.” Yes I did! Knowingly and on purpose.

Living here can seem like being on a conveyor belt where you are moved along, ready or not, past stations that have various goals. The schedule is determined by someone else. Some stations are good—eat, sleep, personal hygiene, activities. The regimentation is hard to get used to and it seems like some employees just wish we’d disappear so they could take a smoke break. Ouch!

This seems like being in solitary confinement but with crowded conditions! Where’s my family, my church friends, my pastor? I may sound cranky but I’m not; I’m lonely. Really, really lonely. And scared.

Help! I think I’m going stir crazy.


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