Please-Don't Forget Me!
She constantly walks from one floor to
where they live. They stop passersby and give
another to make sure everything is running
their name. "Will you help me to my room?"
smoothly. Borman Hall officials say they
By 9:45 p.m., most residents are asleep. The
couldn't function without her.
collector, who finds leftover cups and places
11:45 p.m. First floor. Cliett is going over
them on her wheelchair, will not sleep in her
some notes in a nurse's office where the smell
room. Hugging her gray sweater, she sits in
of fresh coffee seems like nectar of the gods.
a chair by the nurse's station on the first floor
The phone rings.
until she falls asleep. Other residents ram
"Most things may never happen," poet
the halls. One wants a sleeping p One con-
Philip Larkin wrote. But of death, "This one
stantly begs for food. The nurses walk up and
will." As it happens so often at Borman Hall,
down, stopping at rooms where residents
a resident has just died.
need medication. They work on their charts.
Cliett knew the resident well. She had been
A resident has a nightmare and screams.
lying in bed for more than a year, living on
Don't wait for silence here; it will never come.
the liquid food that poured through a tube in-
On the second floor, nurse's aide Lawrence
to her body.
Coleman sits outside a resident's door. He's
Cliett picks up the phone and calls the resi-
not a man you can catch off guard. Ask, "But
dent's son. "I'm sorry to have to tell you your
isn't it hard to work here?" Maybe he'll say
mother just expired;' she says. Her voice is
he's sick of these people.
gentle and controlled; death is familiar here.
"A lot of people think this is difficult work,
"You take care," Cliett continues. "And if you
and it is difficult," he says. "But these peo-
need anything, you let me know?'
ple are human beings.
12:10 a.m. A nurse on the second floor
"Some of them haven't got anybody except
walks with Cliett, who is well-versed in how
the aides. They need people to talk to. I pro-
Jewish corpses must be cared for until they
vide them with companionship."
reach a funeral home, to the room where the
In fact, Coleman, who worked as a medic
woman died. There lies a tiny body with its
in the U.S. Army, and the other aides do much
mouth wide open. The nurse gently pulls the
more than that. Paid minimum wage, they
sheet to the resident's neck. There are no
are responsible for what must be one of the
photographs, no bottles of perfume that give
most unenviable tasks: caring for the
off that sweet smell of li-
ly of the valley like your
residents' hygiene. That
grandmother used to
means everything from
wear. Only a fan is left
helping them brush
as a testimony that so-
their teeth to changing
meone once lived here.
12:30 a.m. A repre-
sheets in the middle of
sentative of the funeral
the night. Coleman is
home arrives. He places
the corpse in a red body
"You know, people
bag, zips it up and car-
here have done things
ries it away on a gantry.
for the history books.
"Bless her soul;' a
You can still have con-
nurse says as the body
versations with a couple
disappears down the
of the men and about
two of the women. I
12:45 a.m. Garbage
speak some German, so
bags filled with soiled
I can usually unders-
linen line the hall on
tand their Yiddish.
the first floor. The clean
"You really get at-
sheets will last a few
tached to some of these
hours until the nurses'
people. You can't help it. •
aides begin the routine
So it's difficult when
all over again. Now,
they die, but that's what
they can rest for five
they come here to do."
minutes. It is only four
11 p.m. The night
hours until a new day
shift arrives. Nurses in
clean, white uniforms
sit at their stations. In
1:30 a.m. The collec-
charge is Night Super-
tor is still there on an orange couch by the
visor Dorothy Cliett, who has been in the
first-floor nursing station. Her wheelchair is
business for more than 30 years. She started
covered with blankets, towels, paper cups. She
as a nurse's aide when she was 18; she work-
says aloud, "She sits here. She moves closer.
ed with her mother, a nurse.
She was there. Now she sits here," locked in-
Cliett likes the profession because she loves
to a world of madness.
old people. She likes working at night
because she has five children to raise. One is
about to enter the University of Michigan.
Cliett's daughter runs a bath for her mother
when she gets home — in the late afternoon.
he day already is in full swing by 5:20
After her shift ends at Borman Hall, Cliett
a.m. Several residents sit fully dressed
will begin her second job. She's always work-
in the first-floor hall.
Back in the rooms, one nurse's aide gives
ed two jobs.
Cliett oversees nighttime activities: at 11
a woman a bath, while another aide pushes
p.m. the workers check to see if residents,
a large cart, covered with large, diaper-like
most of whom are incontinent, need their
pads, towels and rubber gloves. It is part of
sheets changed. Cliett will make sure all
a constant cycle: get residents to a meal, clean
residents receive their proper medication.
Jacob Okragly watches
television in his room.
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS