In Senior Care

The Magic Trunk


s an Assisted Living Administrator for 18 years, it has been my honor to serve the greatest generation that has ever lived. My love for my job all started with my grandmother. Grandma was the most wonderful woman I have ever met. If I had a time machine I would love to go back in time just so I could meet up with her in the 1920’s and become her best friend. Her zeal for life, her outrageous laugh, her love of God, and her unending commitment to service of others is what inspires me to this day.

My grandmother learned to drive at the age of 10. She was a working woman. She danced the Cancan and the Charleston. She yodeled. She loved to camp. She knew how to shoot. She owned her own restaurant. She was a modern woman for her day.

And then, she developed Alzheimer’s.

Continued below…


Grandma was never very forthcoming with information about herself as a young woman. I would ask her about what it was like for her growing up and she would just talk in generalities, until the day we moved her in to my aunt’s house. At that time her Alzheimer’s had progressed to the point that she could not live alone anymore. Among her other possessions, my grandmother had a giant trunk in the basement of her home that was always locked. When the trunk arrived in my aunt’s house on moving day something wonderful happened.

My grandmother and I were looking at the trunk and I asked her if she knew where the key was. She reached into her bra and pulled out the key. Once the trunk was opened my view of my grandmother was changed forever. The real Margie was revealed. Marge the girl. Marge the young woman. As each item came out, there was a story to go with it— stories never told, not even to her children.

The first thing that came out of the trunk was a full length mink coat with matching hat, a flapper dress, pictures of her as a young woman, pictures of their homestead in Montana, a marriage license to a man no one had ever heard of, white helmet with a red stripe down the middle, a Bavarian woman’s costume and many other treasures. Every item brought back memories for her, memories she had never shared until that afternoon.

I found out that my grandmother drove moonshine from Montana to Chicago. That her father really wasn’t a veterinarian; that was just a cover for their moonshine business. She taught the Cancan and the Charleston in a speakeasy in Chicago. Her mink coat had three bullet holes in it because the man that gave it to her wanted it back and she would not give it up. There were several pictures of her holding tommy guns, which she knew how to shoot. She raced cars on dirt tracks wearing the white helmet. She yodeled on stage with Riley Puckett.

Many, many great stories came out that day, stories I would never have heard if it wasn’t for the Magic Trunk. The Magic Trunk allowed me to meet Margret E. Campbell and hear stories I would not have heard if not for the Alzheimer’s.

The last 12 years of my career have been exclusively dedicated to the excellent care everyday of Alzheimer’s and dementia residents who reside at Guardian Angel Homes.

Thank You, Grandma!

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