Being a CNA. What it feels like is truly beautiful, challenging, exhausting, special, hopeful…
Katy walks in with a smile and my mama has to “go” to the restroom; nervous energy trembles an already trembling leg filled with the demon of Parkinson’s, the ghost in her body which she can no longer control. Katy gently taps her hand, given frailty by slender bones; and with a quick squeeze of calm, Katy lets her know not to worry. Katy helps Mama equalize as she raises her from the bed, slips the gait belt around her waist and offers her the handle bar of her walking “driver”. They ambulate toward the bathroom. Mama stubs her socked toe; Katy slows, steadies, holds.
They are patient with each other because the relationship is not one-sided — it is the valuation of respect and love, compassion and belief that life is still worth living maybe because they are connected friends, united in a common purpose of need and conviction. They are special together like a posse of graceful gazelles leaping along a grassy patch in union of leaps and dance, walking together like Katy and my Mama, a glide and scuffle across the floor. They arrive at the bathroom door and they pirouette around so that my Mama can use the toilet. This too is a delicate dance of caution and support, one function cannot, without the other.
Katy leaves for privacy and dignity; Mama asks her to wait just outside the door. Katy does. Patient, a burden to carry for her people, because she’s filled with the jewels of unique compassion. Katy looks around the room decorated in pictures of a life once lived; she fights through the fatigue and a sleepless night before, her son sick with a stomachache, her daughter troubled with a 3rd grade math test.
When Mama is finished, Katy helps her up, tells her about her daughter’s issue with math. It pleases Mama to hear about the world living around her; Katy knows this. Inside these seconds, they are normal friends.
They wash hands, Mama cleans her teeth — she likes to brush her teeth. A crooked hand steadies as Katy places the toothbrush in Mama’s hand, helps her where she misses and washes it out when Mama is done. An anxious calm fills a body that belies a once active “jitterbugger” and a lover of endless parties. They can talk now, Mama only anxiously calm; her body once a school teacher’s. Her once dominant voice now a raspy sound in a peal of a help offer: she whispers, “I can help your daughter with that math problem.”
Katy nods, grateful for the kindness because she knows Mama can’t really see much anymore, the light still of a life no longer refracts in the eyes to decipher a word or a number on the page. Katy smiles into Mama’s soft wrinkles and Mama taps a pure cheek that held a private tear only an hour ago; and both are fulfilled in the moment of space and time.
Mama tells her a quick story, and they center their giggles one inside the other. Revived with a little new air in four lungs—two that are old and two that are young. Need and purpose: a synergy of the dance, a CNA and her patient, a friend and her confidant, a mother and her child.
CNAs, we celebrate you — the crown jewel of the industry, the divine beauty of our healthcare nation. God bless you always. Psalm 91. – Dianne
Dianne H. Timmering, MBA, MFA, CNA