Last night at the home an exciting, glamorous lady joined the folks on the Memory Care Unit. While I complimented Alma on her new red Target bag that I watched her open at the Christmas party and she replied, "Thank you, I received it for my birthday," the folks ate and complained as usual that they don't get enough sugar. I thought it was going to be a regular old night, void of much Christmas cheer, even with the strains of Nat 'King' Cole serenading us about chestnuts on an open fire, but then the new Lorraine showed up late to dinner.
I was sitting between Gudrun and Mary, making sure each ingested enough calories to keep them healthy and alive, when a woman I'd never seen before entered the dining room. She wore only a hospital gown but she had fire-red hair, reminiscent of Lucille Ball's iconic mop, except that it was jutting out in crazy puffs all over her head, the victim of a rough afternoon of sleep. She sat down at the table with the most able residents and began talking right away. She bellowed out to anyone that would listen, "Who is singing this song?" When nobody answered, she asked again until I called across the room, "It's Nat 'King' Cole!" "That's right," she replied, "I love Nat 'King' Cole! He sings my song, Sweet Lorraine!" That's when I learned her name really is Lorraine, which makes her the third Lorraine on the unit, and she even shares the same last name as another Lorraine there! It's a small Lorraine world.
But this Lorraine was different than the others. My original Lorraine is quiet and nice as pie, rarely complaining and always smiling anytime her head isn't lying on the table top while she naps before dinner. The second Lorraine suffers from male pattern baldness and whines a lot about not wanting to eat her dinner. She's tougher to love, but looks so much like a sick child that you can't help it. But this new Lorraine was like a hurricane whirling through the unit! Her fiery hair and tongue hide the symptoms of dementia, at least so far. She just seemed like a kooky, fun old lady. Throughout the meal the firehead Lorraine talked and talked and talked and I strained to hear everything she was saying because so much of it was amusing. But Gudrun had a lot of Swedish to speak to me, or to anyone really, and she had some singing to do, so I couldn't hear it all.
When folks were finishing their meals and the nurses were making the rounds, recording how much food each resident had eaten, like they do after every single meal, Kollie stopped at the new Lorraine's table. My ears perked up when I heard Lorraine ask demure, shy Barbara over and over, "How old are you? How old are you? You can't be sixty, you look too old to be sixty. Maybe seventy? How old are you?" Barbara wouldn't answer, she rarely does more than smile in response to anything said to her, but Lorraine wouldn't have it. She turned to Kollie who was standing there with his clipboard and she asked him, "How old is this lady? She won't say anything!" I looked at Kollie with an uncomfortable grin and he lifted his eyebrows as if to say, "How did I get into this?" But he calmly replied to Lorraine, "I don't know how old Barbara is, you have to ask her." Lorraine, clearly exasperated, barked, "But she won't tell me! I've asked!" Kollie, quick as a wink, then said, "Maybe she doesn't want to tell you. How old are you, Lorraine?" To which Lorraine snapped back loudly, "That's none of your damned business!"
I think I'm going to like Sweet Lorraine.