Bird Lady

Franchaun has not been able to get her buddy, Jenny, to talk at all. Every time they visit, Jenny simply sits and stares at the nursing facility’s small aviary, watching the canaries, finches and doves flit about. When Franchaun asks her a question, Jenny answers with a grumpy one- or two-word response, or not at all. Most of the time she seems not to know, or care, that Franchaun is even there.

With each visit, Franchaun becomes more frustrated. No matter what she tries to do to connect with her, Jenny remains interested only in the birds. Franchaun feels that she has failed, and any observer might conclude that in fact this buddy pairing has not worked.

An important part of the Memory Bridge curriculum is the creation of buddy projects: At the end of the program, students give their buddies gifts that they have made to memorialize the relationship and connect with some aspect of the buddy’s world. Franchaun doesn’t know what to do for Jenny. She has been given so little information on which to build any kind of bridge. Her instructors tell her to think back, think hard, and see if anything triggers an idea.

At the final buddy visit, Franchaun presents Jenny with a scrapbook she has made for her. On the pages are pictures of birds, which she has cut out of magazines, and photos of the two of them together.

Opening the scrapbook, Jenny comes to life. The shell has been cracked. She spends the visit animatedly talking to Franchaun. She talks about birds, asks Franchaun questions about herself, and instigates new topics of conversation. At the end of the visit she thanks Franchaun for the scrapbook and tells her how much she likes the pictures.

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