No, I don’t need a stuffed animal – what his body language said

He was new to the nursing home and was keeping his distance from the other residents.

I am not like everybody here. I could be at home if somebody could take care of me.

I could tell he did not have a smile even remotely close to his face. He looked downhearted, almost like pleading to  ask me – what am I doing here? I don’t belong here.

All of the other residents were laughing and having fun selecting stuffed animals from the table. I asked him if he wanted one. He didn’t say anything with words but his crossed arms, close to his chest said it all.He shook his head with a meaning that said No, not for me. I am a grown man. I don’t want that kind of thing.

I took an interest in him. He looked a little like my Uncle Jack. I asked him where he was from and where he had worked. He had a strong Boston accent and had worked for Fortune 100 company for 31 years. He still owned a house in a pricey zip code area. Throughout my program, I made him the “teacher’s pet” and directed a lot of my questions to him. He perked up and smiled once.

This facility had a religious component so I played my DVD of Johnny Mathis singing THE LORD’S PRAYER. I heard him singing, his eyes closed and really singing with fervor. Like he had been in his church choir. A proud man. A big man. But now trapped in his wheelchair………..how do you really adjust to that? And all of these strangers sitting in a room with you….around you…your new family. Eating in a community dining room, not in your own kitchen. Needing help to go to the bathroom and to take a shower………

At the end of the hour, he motioned for me to come over to him.

Can I have a stuffed animal for my niece?

I had already packed everything up but remembered that there was one big cinnamon-colored bear with a red bow – brand new with the tag still on it. This was a special bear dropped off to the store where my husband works – a lady just came in and told the manager it was for John Gallagher. So, I never got to thank that person because I had no clue who it was. That bear arrived about two months ago. But it didn’t find a home until today.

And so this big man received a big bear and then I saw a big smile, just for a second.. It must be hard to smile on your second week in an new place that it is now your home

I hope to see him again and make him the “teacher’s pet” just like I would like someone to do for my Uncle Jack.

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