Sunday, October 7, 2012

Things I Did Do

I transferred to Oregon State University after studying my Freshman year of college at Linfield College in McMinnville. I went to Linfield because they had a swim team that I could be a part of and I had swam through most of my childhood.  Part way through the season I was done.  I quit.  I actually still regret this.  I wish I was strong enough to at least finish the year.  I was still young and being out on my own was new to me.  The practice schedule was a lot more intense than I was used to and I think I was kind of board of it.  When I told people at Linfield that I was transferring I joked about maybe trying out for the crew team.  I thought it would be fun but at the same time had no clue what the sport really was like-and I thought swimming was hard. 

My sister was attending OSU and had already finished a couple years at University when I transferred.  She was renting a 5 bedroom house and was saving a space for me.  She had a barbeque at her house over the summer and my whole family went down to Corvallis to attend.  My Mom and I went to the grocery store in Corvallis to pick up a few more things and a women stopped me in the aisle.  "Where are you going to school next year?" I told her I was transferring to OSU next year.  "Have you ever thought about rowing?"  Well yes I had but didn't know where to start.  She told me to sign up for the novice rowing class that is offered every fall term.  They will teach you how to row and if you like it and if you are any good they will ask you to stay. That women in the store ended up being the novice rowing coach who I spent many long hours with.  She taught me what it was really like to fight for what you want and gave me great strength through trials on the erg and off.  When I said I can't, my legs hurt she would say "It's a long way from your heart Tracy!" What, you are supposed to have compassion on me, I am hurting.  Not Jane, and it was the best thing for me at the time.

I was part of the OSU rowing team for 4 years.  I was in the JV8 my second and third year and finally made it to the varsity 8 my senior year.  I raced only a few races in the varsity 8 but it was a thrill and a goal I had been trying to attain for years. I made many friends from the crew team.  Life long friends.  We have since seen many of marry and I have held many precious "crew babies" in my arms as we begin our families. 

In my 4th year of school I had an Ah ha moment in my Sociology of Aging course.  It finally clicked and I figured out what career I believe God had been preparing me for my whole life. Since the moment I figured it out I thought it would be good for me to get some real life work experience.  At the time I worked 15 to 20 hours a week at Osbourne Aquatic Center as a lifeguard. Through lifeguarding I met, and became friends with quite a few seniors citizens who swam in the early morning hours. One day one of the ladies came with assistance from an in home caregiver from a local agency. I applied for a job with the same agency and began in home caregiving which I did through my whole senior year.  Although I got paid less than when I was a lifeguard my checks routinely ended up adding up to more because I could put in so many hours with out realizing it.  I loved it. 

I graduated from Oregon State University in 2004 with a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Psychology.  At this point I knew I wanted to work with the senior population but I wasn't exactly sure which avenue I would take.  I was dating a guy who had an old family friend who worked at an Assisted living community in Salem (complicated I know).  They were looking for an activities assistant so I went in for an interview and got the job.  The activity assistant was going to be responsible for activities in the new memory care cottage that was just remodeled and was moving in residents soon.  I started working at The Woods at Willowcreek in July of 2004 and my last day was when I left on maternity leave in February of 2011.  What is that like 6 and a half years or so?

I had no idea how much I would fall in love with that place and my work.  Sure there were tough days, many tough days.  I have gone to many funerals but I have been a part of many spectacular peoples lives and that's the part I focus on most.  What an honor for me to be a part of the final chapter.  Many of the individuals I helped care for could not communicate to me with their words but many spoke to me through their eyes.  Not only was I a part of the residents life but also a part of their families.  I have seen unimaginable strength in the face of horrendous loss.  I often face life's challenges by thinking to myself, if they can do what they have done for their loved one, I can do this.  If they can come spend every day with their spouse who doesn't know their name, I can overcome this.  Your names and faces are forever in my heart.

I have seen God's splendor and God's comfort to those who are passing.  I have seen women on their death bed looking up with smiles on their faces and calling the names of children they have lost.  I have seen a women take her last breath with her daughter by her side.  I have heard others talking about sitting on Jesus' lap.  How can you not be changed?  How can you not understand, a little more, what is truly important in life.  I can not say I became financially wealthy in this work but I was rewarded in ways that can not be measured.

To the caregivers out there in the trenches both at home and in community settings, I applaud, with all that I am I applaud you!

1 comment:

  1. It's the giving of ourselves in tough situations that beautifully turns into the absorption of so much goodness and understanding. It's always when you give a part of yourself that you get the most/learn the most. Hurray for rowing and hurray for people like you who can take care of us when we're in our final chapter.