Senior Senorita

July 29th, 2013

A teenager finds meaning in a retirement home.

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Old people make my daughter cry.

I know that’s a weird thing to say, but it’s true; I’ve seen it. The tears, though, are mostly tears of happiness. Again, I know that sounds strange.

This is going to take a bit of explaining. Taylor is 17-years-old and just a month away from being a senior in high school. But the seniors she adores are 60 years older than her. She gets such a positive charge from hanging out with them, listening to their stories, laughing or helping them out, that sometimes they bring tears to her eyes. It was only natural that she apply for a job in an old folks home.

She would correct me, probably even scold me for my poor word choice; it’s a Senior Living Community.

For the past four months, several days per week, she drives over and pulls the meal shift at a local retirement facility. It’s a four-hour gig and it fits her schedule perfectly. Well, she gets paid for four hours, anyway.

This part astounds me. This part I can’t even wrap my head around. She clocks out at 7:30 pm — punching her time card — then goes back in and visits with the residents! There is one woman in particular, “She’s my girl,” says Taylor. And they spend at least a half hour together every evening. Here’s a self portrait they took together the other day —–>

It’s that X-factor that makes her a gifted caregiver. That’s the type of thing that makes me think she should probably look into Gerontology or Geriatrics when she heads off to college. She can do anything she wants though, as far as I’m concerned. If she does pursue caregiving, she’s had a lot of training.

My mom is 80 and still lives in her own place. One of Taylor’s favorite things to do — as a teenager, remember — is to pick up her younger cousin and drive over to their grandma’s house to just hang out. Although to be fair, there’s usually food involved somehow.

Before she could even drive, though, she helped me when I first came home from the hospital. A normal young teen would probably not be too excited about helping flush her father’s IV line with hypodermic syringes. Taylor was fine with it; it didn’t freak her out at all. I think it even made her feel proud to help out.

But it was even further before that, way, way back when I got one of my earliest glimpses of how well she works with older people.

We went camping along Lake Michigan. Taylor was very young and as I was getting her and her sister’s breakfast of cold cereal and milk ready, I realized I couldn’t find her. I heard laughing nearby, and with just a little panic, jogged over to the campsite next to us. There was Taylor, sitting in a comfy camp chair, eating pancakes and bacon all the while entertaining our much older neighbors.

“She just came over to talk,” they said, “we asked her if she was hungry and she said ‘Sure’” they explained.

Like I said, food always seems to be involved.

This past week, one of her elder friends at the facility passed away. This time, Taylor’s tears weren’t of joy. It wasn’t unexpected, but we were wondering in the back of our minds what would happen once she had to deal with the omnipresent loss that’s inherently a part of senior living.

By all accounts, she dealt with it perfectly. She cried, talked to some of the residents, mourned the loss, then afterwards went out to a concert with her teen friends. Sort of the yin and yang way, circle of life stuff. Her approach was as well-rounded as anyone’s twice her age (or quintuple).

We’re going to stop worrying about her, at least in this facet of her life. She’s got this. She’s amazing.

The world’s her oyster … (again, with the food!)

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