Lady in Red

When I first came into the long term health care field, I had black hair, without the help of # 4 Clairol. My sister was a RN in a nursing home in Richmond, Virginia and managed to land me a job as an Activity Director, with Department Head status. I had graduated college, worked in a psych hospital and had a very frightening experience, so I had quit. This new job in the “home” seemed like a cake walk.

Driving up to the building, I noticed how small it seemed in comparison to the psych hospital I had worked in which housed 600 people. This nursing home was only 180 beds.

Three days into the job, I thought I had the hang of it. I walked in as usual, punched in, and was making my way to my sister’s office when a well dressed lady stopped me.

“Excuse me young lady, can you give me a ride to the bus stop?” she asked.

I thought to myself, the bus stop is right beside a fast food restaurant so I can grab myself breakfast while doing a good deed, and it’s only two minutes from the facility.

“Yes maa’m, no problem, I would be happy to. I replied. For three days I had sat through orientation and customer service had been pounded into my head, “aim to please”, and “go out of your way to show kindness to our visitors”, so this WAS something I was needed to do, right?

I turned around heading toward my car, with this little lady in tow. She was dressed quite lovely, a red silky blouse, black skirt, coordinating red shoes and handbag. Oh and don’t forget the hat. A true church-going Sunday best hat.

I opened the car door for her and off we went. Once in the parking lot of the fast food restaurant, the bus stop had a bench right there on the corner of Broad and Parham. I bid her a good day and went inside and ordered myself and my sister breakfast.

I slipped quietly back into the facility, my absence not detected by anyone. I am on my way to my sister’s office when I notice people scattering, looking anxiously about, and the overhead pager is blaring “CODE YELLOW, CODE YELLOW, I repeat CODE YELLOW”. I walk on to my sister’s office, assuming someone is having a heart attack and needing CPR or some type of medical crisis. My sister’s office was open, but no sign of her. I look around for her (this was long before cell phones), finally finding her. I asked what’s going on.

“We have an elopement” she said panting from her running around.

“A elop-who? What?”

“A missing resident”, she offers, always being the older, wiser sister.

I said ok, what’s she look like, I will help look.

“She was last seen wearing a black skirt, black hat, red top and red…”

I about fainted. I finished her sentence for her, “red shoes with a red purse?”

Yes she said.

OH BOY. I quickly told her what I had done, in two sentences, fifty words or less.

She said, GO, go now and find her!

I ran out the door, leaving my breakfast to grow cold, knowing now that I have placed someone in harm’s way, not knowing any better and certainly meaning well.

I arrived back at the fast food restaurant, my tires squealing as I came to a stop, only to see her sitting there on the bench, singing an old church hymn, waiting for the bus. I looked down Broad Street as the air brakes on the bus made the “shish” noise. I made it with one second to spare.

I said to the lady in red, (I didn’t know her name) “Come with me”, to which she answered “Ok baby, where we going?”

Once back at the facility, I knew I was in hot water with everyone. The Administrator gave me quite the talking to, but saw my well meaning intentions enough that he did not fire me on the spot. My sister, well, she gave me a very hard time about  it for years, careful to send me the CD of “Lady in Red” as a reminder of the day I drove the lady in red to the bus stop.

I had a lot to learn.














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