Jan 15th, 2018

I started my new job at the nursing home. Benji is a good boss: relaxed, friendly, holds employees accountable. My coworkers seem decent. No one gets in shouting matches. The seniors asked me every question they could think of. "Are you in school?" "Is your family close?" "How long have you lived in Minnesota?"

As I suspected, having a schedule again is good for me. I shower at least every other day now. I eat. I still have trouble sleeping, but at least I'm lying down on the futon by 10 PM and asleep by 2 AM. Now if I could just stop thinking while I'm alone, that would be nice.

Jan 27th, 2018

We have trouble keeping resident assistants from quitting. I wonder what kind of workload they were expecting. We help the seniors into their clothes, their beds, their bathtubs. And dementia just brings out the worst in people. Their moods spin as fast as coins.

Today, Harriet was having trouble getting out of her seat in the cafeteria, so the cook called me to help her. When I arrived she said, "Help me out of my seat?! Do I look like I need help?! Shame on you!" Then she got herself up through the sheer power of her own rage. She yelled, "And don't report me because I'll report you too!" as she waddled away on her walker.

According to the other assistants, she's been like this for a few years.

"If it makes you feel any better," Therese told me, "She once said, 'Do you know why I have bangs? Because I have a forehead like yours.'"

Feb 2nd, 2018

I discovered that I can never skip a day of medication. I had the pills ready to take with my cereal, but I was in such a rush that I left them on the table. The thoughts returned, and I spent my break in the bathroom doing that box breathing technique that Wendy showed me.

I think I'll be carrying my pills in my purse from now on just to avoid that. If I pick up a dry erase board or a calendar from the thrift store, I can leave notes to remind myself. It'll add more structure to my life.

Feb 5th, 2018

The seniors seem to like me. I think it's the hair.

I looked up advice for resident assistants and improving the lives of seniors, and it turns out that doing the same thing every day with little opportunity to go outside is just as bad as having nothing to do. One way to counteract that is to share recent news about yourself, and to shake up your appearance as your uniform allows.

Every day I come to work with a different hairstyle. Sometimes ponytails. Sometimes buns. Always ribbons I bought from the thrift store.

Today, Conrad greeted me at the door and asked me to turn around, so he could see my hairclips. This job is good to me.

Feb 10th, 2018

Wendy recommended that I try touching things with unusual textures and memorizing the feeling. It's supposed to distract me when I get sucked into a black hole of negativity. It works.

Feb 23rd, 2018

Waiting to get better is like getting on a cargo ship from 16th century Italy, hoisting anchor, and waiting to get to Atlantis. I doubt it will happen. I can't see it happening. But some back-seat sailor keeps telling me, "Go west. It's definitely there." And I'm certain I'll be disappointed when I find it.

I still fall asleep after midnight. My appetite hasn't quite returned, so I'll skip dinner and breakfast most days. My hair won't stop falling out. I don't leave the house unless I'm going to work. I'm living off granola bars.

I can take as much medication as I want. I can distract myself with thousand-piece puzzles and movies and crochet. But the second I'm left alone I feel raw and ripped up. I'll never stop performing. I wish I could smile without anyone's help.

Mar 14th, 2018

Today, Craig's daughter came to visit him. Craig makes me think of Santa, but bald. He has the big white beard, the belly that shakes when he laughs, and the wardrobe full of red. Whenever I see him, he tries to teach me a bit of Norwegian. It's only appropriate that his family is just as jolly.

I like seeing children visit their parents. It's difficult when they don't. I suspect that people assume a senior with dementia won't remember who they are or remember the visit in the morning, so why bother?

Harriet forgets every few hours that she already got her mail, so she'll push the panic button until someone comes to take her to the lobby. Then the concierge will give me a knowing wink and say, "Not much today, Harriet. Just some coupons," then hand her some coupons from a stack he keeps in the drawer.

What Harriet never forgets is her emotions. I think that's why she's warming up to me. She doesn't remember that I've already worn my green headband many times. She'll always comment that she likes the new hairpiece. But she remembers that I speak gently and give her space when she asks. She remembers that I smile when I see her and ask about her day. This usually means she'll smile back instead of ignoring me like she used to. They don't remember who you are, but they remember that they love you.

I hope her family comes to visit.

Apr 1st, 2018

I went home for Easter. My sister, Hannah, has been to therapy for depression, so she gets it. Talking with her is comfortable like nothing else.

Everyone is fucked up in one way or another, and that goes double for my family. Mom? Bipolar depression, even if she tries to hide it. Grandpa? Anxiety. Dad? He's had therapy for anger management. Glad I don't talk to him anymore.

Hannah and I need to sit our brother down about going to therapy sometime. He's just as inward as I am, and that's not a good sign. Can't let him stew forever while he stays up until 4 AM on a school night and never leave his room. I worry that he has depression and he's too ashamed to talk about it.

Apr 30th, 2018

Perhaps this is a bad sign, but I've taken to watching Ask A Mortician. It's a webseries about the science, mythology, history, and industry of death. I think my favorite episode is the one on eco-friendly ways to bury a body. I like the idea of having a wake in the home of my family with the body laid out, unembalmed, then buried in a compact basket under a tree in a field. My flesh will become fertilizer, and then it will be illegal to put a parking lot over my corpse.

Also, it's actually legal to mail your ashes. You just need to have everything properly wrapped, and the recipient has to sign. That way the courier won't leave you on the porch for some asshat to steal. That means Mom can mail me to an Etsy artist and have me turned into broaches or vinyl records or glass knick-knacks.

She used to date a guy who kept his father's ashes in a small metal bottle on top of his TV. His children loved their grandpa so much, they'd put the bottle in its own chair, and throw a tea party with it. It was sweet, if not a bit macabre. But mostly sweet.

May 15th, 2018

Wendy thinks I'm ready to stop seeing her in few weeks. I know I'm still fucked in the head, but I'm convinced that digging deeper into the trauma isn't like going in with tweezers to pull out a thorn so much as it is going in with a thorn to pull out a thorn. So I agreed with her, and our last meeting will be in late May.

The sooner I can forget, the better. Or maybe I need to up the dosage on fluoxetine.

May 23rd, 2018

I went bowling with Therese and half the assistants. Barbara called Quinn "Quiche" today, so that's the name he bowled under. I got a strike. I needed this.

Jun 6th, 2018

I'll miss meeting with Wendy. She's direct but gentle and I never feel like she judges me. I know it's her job but it's helpful. She says she has confidence in my recovery. I hope she doesn't give that line to all her patients.

Jun 27th, 2018

Gertrude is a sweet lady. She's always smiling no matter what. She also has a few typical memory problems. I find myself repeating words often, but she takes a vested interest in my personal life.

Today she pointed at my belly and asked when I was due. She was disappointed to know that I'm not pregnant. When I saw her again, she asked how many children I have.

Therese says I should have said fifteen, but now I'm thinking that I should have told the truth. It's supposed to set you free.

Jul 5th, 2018

Craig asked how to get me promoted. Then Harriet asked how to get me demoted. I wish I knew which position she had in mind. Janitor maybe?

Aug 3rd, 2018

Gertrude loves my new flower clips best. She said I looked so beautiful that I should be dancing around a pole. I stood there in shock but let her continue. "Have you ever been poledancing, Rachel? It's so much fun. If you go to Powderhorn Park next year they'll have one. You'd look so pretty wrapping ribbons around the maypole."

It's like she knows everything about me and doesn't even realize it.

Dec 25th, 2018

It's been one year since I had my baby then gave him away. I hope someone is giving him the love that I can't, or at least providing for his needs. I really hope he's having a birthday party right now.

I'm not a suitable parent. I don't know how to be. Maybe one day I will.

Happy birthday, Sean.

From user: DHenning

Hello Sean,

I have a few leads on the author of this journal, which is the good news.

I began by narrowing down which nursing home Rachel worked in, based on the residents and employees listed. It was the Red Oak in Eden Prairie, which closed in 2053. Then I searched for Rachel Stoakes' with little sisters named Hannah.

There are three Rachel Stoake's who lived in or near Minneapolis in 2018, at one point worked at Red Oak, and have little sisters named Hannah. That's an unusual number of coincidences.

Getting in contact with each Rachel will be easy for two of them as they have social media accounts.

Rachel of Lake Havasu, Arizona is still a resident assistant. She has a cat and volunteers at Habitat for Humanity.

Rachel of White Bear Lake, Minnesota is a geriatric nurse and gives lectures on senior care, particularly as it relates to mental health.

This is where I bear the bad news. Rachel of Springfield, Missouri committed suicide in 2034. Her online presence ends around 2025, but I did find one Hannah listed as her sister. She's a mortician.

If you would like to continue this investigation, please let me know so that we can finally meet in person and contact each lead together.

David Henning



B.S. History & Journalism from Marquette 2032