Only a couple of them can walk on their own without assistance. But whether they walk, wheel themselves, or are pushed up to a table in the dining area where we play, you better believe that they are ready with their cards promptly at 9 a.m. And if we don't begin the games on time, they sure let us know!
I learned early on in my volunteering that if I walk around during the games, I better not block their view of the cards being called, or else they'll tell me to move...loud enough for everyone else to hear. And while some are so appreciative if you catch a number they miss and cover it for them, others are a little more feisty or independent and want to do it themselves.
Just like school children, they sit at the same table every week with their usual friends. They are sticklers for the rules and are quick to tell the volunteers when we forget something.
There's Vera, who is very well-spoken and always makes sure that her tablemates haven't missed any numbers on their Bingo card. You can tell she's the one that watches out for everyone else, a good friend to have.
This morning Vera asked us where George, another resident, was, and we found out he's sick and not doing well. As I left the nursing home, an ambulance had just arrived, a common occurrence in a nursing home. But as I drove away, two firetrucks and another ambulance were arriving, meaning something was really wrong this time, and I couldn't help thinking that it might be George and hoping he's okay.
There's Dolly, who came in today with a very bruised forehead and black eye from a fall, hair completely white, but fingernails painted a perfect, youthful pink.
And there's Eleanor, who doesn't have much dexterity in her fingers anymore, so I sit and help her with her cards. She might need me to cover the pieces, but she doesn't miss a single number. And every week, she has a big, fabulous flower in her hair.
They may be old and in a nursing home, but they are still people. They want to have fun, and love and be loved, and find joy in things they still can do, like play Bingo.
I love learning their different personalities and getting to know them, and there are so many things that I wonder. I imagine all the things they've seen in their many years, and all the places they've been and people they've encountered.
What was their spouse like? Were they a teacher, a banker, a businessman, a homemaker? What's the craziest thing they did when they were a teenager?
They make me appreciate being young.
Waking up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning is tough, but I never regret the time I spend with "my elders."
And I hope that someday, if I do wind up in a nursing home, someone comes to play Bingo with me too.