Adams County is in the heart of Washington's wheat belt, where one might find a farmer.
But the person who answers the door is Carolle Freed. She is 46 years old, divorced and living with her friend Kathy Gillis. They have a garden, but not quite a farm.
As she shows off her garden, Freed is only able to point to "one, two, three lovely beans," as she says, perhaps proving she is not very good at farming. She is better at nurturing human life.
Freed is the resident care coordinator for the Life Care Nursing Home. If you want to understand that job, all you have to do is spend a few moments with one of the residents. And if you really want to know, make it Helen Read.
Eighty-eight-year-old Read is the quintessential grandma, but with an edge.
"Where's my afghan?" she asks, armed with a sharp tongue and a pair of fly swatters. "Some dirty old b------ took it. I'll go to the laundry and get the d--- thing if I have to!"
"I hate bugs," she explains.
Read demands nothing less than full-service nursing and then complains when she gets it.
It can be a thankless job to say the least, and yet Freed has been at it 15 years now. She doesn't need a shallow thank-you to make her job rewarding. Her drive comes from a deeper well.
When she was growing up, Freed spent every summer with her grandma.
"We always did fun things," she remembers. "We went to the races. I mean a 9-year-old goes to the races! It's not allowed….She let me buy my own ticket. I got to pick my own horse!"
Her grandma died in 1981, but Freed says every day she still sees a little bit of her at the nursing home.
"They're all really something special," Freed declares. "And it make take you a while to figure it out, but it's in there."
Asked what she thinks of Freed, Read says, "They don't do a d--- thing." (Read doesn't have many nice things to say about nurses in general.)
But about Freed, she says, "I like her."
And when that ice cracked, it becomes clear that Freed is a gem.
"You can't get new grandmas and grandpas," says Freed. "You can't get back what you could have learned from them but didn't tak the time to learn. Once it's gone, it's gone."
After that Freed throws the dart to guide next week's journey. "Going to Lincoln County, Colo.," she says.
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