Originally created 07/04/06

Visit with elderly to enrich yourself



In the past few weeks, I have discovered the most beneficial way to utilize summer vacation.

My family and I recently returned from Eden, N.Y., a town near Buffalo. The purpose of this trip was to visit my grandmother Pearl White, who has been confined to a nursing home after having a stroke and hip surgery. We stayed at her house with two of my aunts and visited her from about 2-7:30 p.m. each day.

After a while, I began to notice a grisly reality about the nursing home and its atmosphere: There were few visitors.

Many residents could be seen in wheelchairs moving about in the hallway. Some even mistook my grandmother's room for theirs, possibly hoping the visitors inside were there to see them.

The nurses did all they could to take care of them, but something was missing - the love of family.

Aside from noticing these things, I learned much about my family's history during our visit. At the 150-year-old house my grandparents moved into in the 1940s, I was given the attic to sleep in. One night, I found an old leather bag that belonged to my grandfather Norman White, who died in 1985. Inside there were old Army pictures, dog tags and memorabilia from World War II.

I also found marriage and funeral papers, birth announcements and other personal objects. The history inside this bag flooded my mind with excitement. My mom's family members were able to provide many interesting discussions about their childhoods and my grandparents.

I couldn't help thinking about the possible bond that my grandfather and I could have had if we had met. I was born in 1989, however, four years after his death.

After my discovery, the visits we made to see my grandmother involved our showing her pictures we had found, one of which included her and my grandfather around the time they were married. She was wearing a maroon dress; he was in his uniform.

One day, my grandmother made the strangest remark after seeing a picture of her mother. She told us that she had just spoken with her mother and (Grandpa) Norman that morning. Some might have thought she was just mumbling, that her conversation with these dead people was only in her head, but I'd like to believe differently.

After my experiences, I wonder what other magnificent histories might be found in the nursing home, what those patients would have to say to someone like me. There is only one way for us as teens to find out: Visit them.

These people long to talk with someone. If their families won't take the time to see them, who will?

Justin Conklin, 17, is a rising senior at South Aiken High School.