#984 – Dick Bernard: Carpet Bowling and Marshmallow Toss

Wednesday afternoon I made a trip up to ND relating to my Uncle, who’s in a Nursing Home in a small town, and has recently been enrolled in the Hospice Program. The trips are frequent, tiring, but always necessary.
Usually I leave in early morning. This day I was scheduled for something called Carpet Bowling with my second grade Pal at his elementary school. It was only a half hour, then I’d be on my way. I wasn’t sure what it was till it began.
Think “real” bowling, and you get a notion of Carpet Bowling. A regulation sized bowling ball is used, but this one was second grade weight. The pins were regulation size as well, but very light.
One class was involved, with their “pals”, one of which was me. There were four lanes, and we took turns. It was all very well organized. (My one turn, I got nine pins the first throw, and a spare!)
Teachers work magic with youngsters, and the supervisor of this activity was no exception. Everybody shared, and we all had a good time. At the end of the half hour, the teacher asked we Pals if any of us had ever worked setting pins, and a couple had, and described what they did in the old days, and how much they were paid.
It was fun!
Then I got on the road for the usual 5 1/2 hours, and for the next 18 hours was dealing with stuff that needed to be dealt with, including time with my Uncle.
The last activity of the day was a conference with the nursing and hospice staff.
It was scheduled for three o’clock, and I had to wait for another conference to include.
I was just outside the day room of the Nursing Home, and elders were seated in an oval, and a lady was preparing for an activity, described on the Activities Board as “Marshmallow Toss”, or similar wording.
It was a simple activity: the coordinator had five squashed marshmallows that had hardened. Of course, they were very light.
There were two small plastic pans that were the targets, one perhaps a foot or two away; the second a tiny bit further.
Each person had their turn: the objective was to toss the marshmallow into the container. For most of us, the simplest of tasks, but when you’re very old, and sometimes very disabled, even something easy becomes a challenge.
One guy got them all, easily; a lady next to him barely could get a single marshmallow in the closest container.
No matter, both had their turn, and a small opportunity to, like the children a day earlier, try to achieve a certain goal.
There were no winners either day; every one participated equally, and supported for what they had done.
I left for the 5 1/2 hours back home, with lots of time to think.
The proximity of the activities, just a day, but 300 miles, apart, was striking to me.
Long ago, these elders trying to toss marshmallows had been in the second grade somewhere, doing something like the carpet bowling activity.
There was perhaps 80 years difference in average experience between them, and for the elders, many peaks and valleys in between, that the youngers have yet to experience.
My Uncle, strong as a horse 10 years ago, is now essentially bedridden, extremely frustrating to him as life winds down.
For each of us, we’re in our own place, on the same path as those elders tossing marshmallows at the nursing home on Thursday.
Enjoy the trip, whatever you have left.

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