"Of course, " I told our director of nursing, although I knew Raymond would remove the shoe and sock from his blue foot within minutes after I put them on.
Like Vada, Raymond was developmentally disabled. He didn't walk at all. He was incontinent and didn't speak. He had no visitors, no family as far as we knew.
Our nursing home took many indigent people from the community. I was told we had a policy of not turning away anyone in need.
Raymond spent his days using his feet to move his wheelchair up and down East Hall, the hall with the most patients. Also the hall with the most difficult cases.
When a charge nurse gave us our assignments as we began our shifts, I always asked for South Hall, but said of course I would work wherever I was needed. However, I always requested that I not be alone if I had East Hall. "Those people poop sooooo much," I often said.
Plus, they were very messy poopers -- difficult to clean up. Raymond could be especially problematic. When he was in bed and had a full diaper, if we didn't find it right away, Raymond almost always "finger painted," the phrase we used to describe a patient who used his hand to remove the feces from his diaper and smear it on his bed rails and sheets and anything else within reach.
Raymond didn't finger paint because he wanted to be nasty or cause trouble. I think he played with poop because it was there.
He never fought us or tried to be difficult when we cleaned him up. Although he took off his shoes and socks, as far as I could tell it, he did it because he liked having bare feet even though his feet were very cold. He didn't even struggle during the frequent finger sticks used to monitor his diabetes.
Raymond could feed himself, but after a few bites, he would wheel himself out of the dining room. I couldn't blame him. The food seldom looked appetizing, but he needed to eat. We had orders to encourage Raymond to eat at meals, but he didn't seem to understand what we said. He never appeared to understand what we said. He didn't seem to even listen, although he wasn't deaf.
Life for Raymond seemed much like life for a hamster running on a wheel and never getting anywhere. He was in a world of his own.
My daughter, Katharine, was a high school student when I worked at the nursing home. She had an adorable dog she had adopted at the county humane society. Emma was a large Labradoodle, adorable and full of life and love. Emma was crazy about everyone. When we took her shopping with us to buy her pet food, children always wanted to pet Emma.
"Sit," we commanded, and Emma immediately sat and held very still while the children giggled and stroked her.
Emma had the kind of furry face that made people fall in love with her immediately.
Because she was so sweet and friendly, I asked Katharine to bring Emma to the nursing home to visit the residents. So many of them were lonely and had little to distract them from the daily routine.
I had no idea that Emma's interaction with Raymond would provide one of the sweetest and most touching moments in my life.
Katharine was happy to bring Emma, so I obtained permission for the visit from our administrator, a very kind person who treated her employees and patients with respect, concern, and dignity.
Katharine and I took Emma up and down the halls. Her big tail swished with joy. She wiggled with delight at meeting so many new people and receiving so much attention.
Then she passed Raymond as he paddled along on East Hall. I was surprised that he noticed her, and even more surprised when he put out his hand to pet her.
Emma stood very still and was on her best behavior, acting the same way she did when a child wanted to pet her.
Then I heard a voice, a small hoarse whisper. It was Raymond.
"Good doggie. Good doggie," he said as he touched Emma gently.
I had tears in my eyes because of the beauty of the moment, and I thanked Katharine for providing a special evening for Raymond.
I never heard Raymond's voice again. He died soon after he met Emma.
I'm still so grateful that Emma and Katharine gave Raymond a moment of happiness before he passed away.
"Good doggie." What could be better last words?