by Grace Gannon
Harwich was a 62-year-old diabetic. She was on
disability but worked for minimum wage as a
bagger at the Harbor Village Shop n Save.
No eggs were ever cracked; no bag of bread
compressed to the size of Saltine crackers on
On rainy days
she brought in shopping carts abandoned in the
parking lot. On snowy days she shuffled through
the lot with elderly shoppers, helping them track
down their cars.
morning Marylou had a seizure and was taken to
the hospital. She was stabilized, given a walker,
and sent to the Golden Ladder Nursing Home for
Two days into
her stay she put aside her walker and bought a
cane at the Ladder gift shop. The body of the
cane was shaped like an Anaconda; the top was the
head of a snake; wide grinning mouth and red
who came to visit grandparents and were
terrorized by tiny people in electric wheel
chairs were drawn like magnets to Marylous
cane. It wasnt long before she became known
as Marylou Good Witch, the Ladders
to the gym daily, bringing residents with her and
overseeing their exercises. When the
administrator Ed Brushelmann, who had a heart of
gold and a significant case of ADHD, began
getting requests from families that they
preferred the new occupational therapist.
There was anarchy in the ranks of the rehab
department. Brushelmann chuckled, had a name-tag
made up: Marylou Harwich, Resident.
Whats the harm? he asked with a
When the bed-maker
left on maternity leave, Marylou stepped up to
the plate and began fluffing pillows and tweaking
When the gift
shop volunteer left for a three week vacation
Marylou filled in. When she noticed a bottle of
white-out she unpinned her name-tag and removed
the word resident. Sales at the gift shop picked
up. Visitors waited in line to get inside. All
seemed to be going well until Gretchen Blake, the
social worker, arrived at morning meeting
disheveled and wild-eyed. Look, she
waved a handful of letters over her head.
Families are asking to switch to the doctor
who has an office in the gift shop,
because shes always available, and
really knows whats going on.
whose medicine had kicked in that morning, said,
Can you set up a discharge?
have to pay privately for home care,
into wallets, and pockets; a pile of cash grew on
top of the table.
on it, Gretchen said. She was about to
leave the room when the door flew open and pinned
her against the wall. Mary Lou stood in the
doorway grinning. My brother called from
Kansas. He wants me to move in with him.
pumped his fist in the air. Go for it,
Marylou Good Witch flew off to Kansas
and took her zest for living with her.
Ladder was never quite the same.