Posted by: silverstar98121 | December 29, 2008

The Blizzard of ’96

The recent snowmergency brings to mind the blizzard that occurred on Christmas day of 1996. At the time I was the resident manager at an adult family home that cared for six severely developmentally impaired adults.  It was out in the middle of nowhere in a town so small it didn’t even have it’s own post office. A lovely place on the shore of Puget Sound, about spitting distance from the Canadian border. A place where you had to drive twenty miles to get fast food.

Three of the residents  couldn’t move without being lifted, only one really walked and talked. One was a blind, autistic that talked to himself continuously. One was a little, old lady, and one was a woman who could drive you crazy because everything had to match. Usually, in the daytime there were two people to care for them. I wasn’t usually one of them, my job was to take care of anything that happened at night,  get Little Bit up and bathed, and start breakfast. After that I was off duty.

My apartment was upstairs, and the residents were downstairs. I slept with an ear to the intercom that was always on so I’d know if one of them was up or something. Mostly nothing happened out of the ordinary, but sometimes it did.

For instance, the administrator of the home made the mistake of putting the Christmas presents for the residents under the tree.  Little Bit, an elderly woman with the mental age of about 2, got up and unwrapped about half of them before I could get downstairs and stop her.

I called her Little Bit because she only came up to my shoulder. Considering that at last measure I was a smidgen under 5 feet tall, that made her really small. But she was cute, and sweet, and funny, and as with all human beings, occasionally a gigantic pain in the ass. And the night she unwrapped the Christmas presents was one of them.

But, on to the blizzard. I awoke to the phone Christmas day with one of the aides calling to tell me she couldn’t come in because she was in Bellingham, about 30 miles away. And then I looked out on the deck, and the snow was half-way up the sliding glass doors. Ruh-roh. Seems we’d been buried by a blizzard in the middle of the night.

Now, that was one of the few days I had daytime duty, as I had no where else to go, and it gave some of the folks with families off. But that still left me a person short. I would need the four arms of the goddess Kali to feed the three that needed to be spoonfed, and get everyone dressed, bathed, etc. So I called J. who was off with a back injury. If I did the lifting, she could do things like feed, bathe, and change.

And so we were off. And we got everyone sorted, and then, finally, let Little Bit and the two others who could manage open their presents. And opened them and showed them to the ones who couldn’t manage.

Reggie in Santa hat

Reggie in Santa hat

Then there was the other problem. I couldn’t get out the deck door, and Reggie, my other Cocker Spaniel, needed to go out. Well, the snow was only about a foot or so deep out the front door. Reggie wasn’t supposed to be downstairs, ever. But he was downstairs that day. And could barely get through the snow that was up to his belly. Fun.

So life went along for a few days until the snow melted. Of course, during this time one of other residents fell and hit her head, giving herself a lovely gash. They were all cared for by this crazy old doctor who told me to bring her to his clinic and he’d sew her up. After lunch. So after lunch I loaded her in my car and drove her half-way across the county to his clinic, even though there was an urgent care much closer. And I think I could have done as good a job with a sewing needle and a piece of thread. However, despite my title, I didn’t run things out there.

All’s well that ends well, I guess. But I don’t ever want to repeat that experience again.

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  1. hey silverstar, I just watched a doco on sarah scantlin and now I’m reading this post about caring for developmentally impaired adults…. spooky…. have you heard of her?

    • Thanks for the link, Nursie. No, I hadn’t heard of her. It’s obvious to me
      that she had locked-in syndrome. I’d be interested in seeing the doco.
      The folks I cared for were developmentally disabled, or what we used to call
      retarded. Although two of them had Rett’s syndrome, which is very similar in
      many ways to locked-in syndrome, and only affects girls. One of the others
      was mildly delayed, one was severely delayed, and they would have called
      Little Bit a cretin, her retardation was caused by hypothyroidism.

  2. Nurses have the best damn stories. I love the part where little bit opened half the presents.

    I think I would have lost my mind if I were snowed in. I’d have to pull a Cuckoo’s Nest move, pack the residents in my car and go for a ride. Some way, some how.

    Locked in is my greatest fear.

    • It was a couple days before we could go anywhere, even in my 4-wheel drive
      Subaru. The trip across the county for the stitches was scary. But I know
      what you mean about cabin fever.
      P.S. We can’t tell the really good stories, because we’d gross everybody

  3. admire the patience of those who can devote a lifetime to the care of others…

  4. Thank you, Daisy Fae.

  5. Good story! One of my friends used to run a Ronald McDonald house, she has a ton of good stories about that.
    Nurses rock. That is all.

  6. Good grief…what a time you had….

  7. You are a fantastic storyteller. Thanks for sharing.

  8. So true Silverstar, all the best stories have to be told behind closed doors.

  9. Wonderful story, though I’m sure at the time it was anything but wonderful. Thanks for opening this moving and most enlightening window to your past, Eileen.


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