Tickle Bell’s story:

After clowning last night, I came home with images and thoughts impacting me in a good way. If I had not been exhausted, I would have emailed you before falling asleep because I needed to debrief with someone.

I usually walk from room to room covering the entire facility for the hour I am there. Considering the year I’ve been going here, many faces and their voices are very familiar to me. I have seen the declining changes in the health of several which is to be expected but nevertheless sad to witness. 

I can’t really say that I carry that feeling with me after I leave the place until last night. I visited with a woman who brought me smiles and even laughter in the past. The first time I met her she was rather scary with her taut lips drawn in a narrow straight line and her piercing eyes on a face void of emotion. So I was greatly surprised when she did speak to me with a lucid compliment. Another time, she asked me if she could tell her friend about me then proceeded to say that I came here to entertain the children who were so happy to see me.

Last night she was a picture of advanced dementia or so I observed. Sitting in the hallway in a wheel chair surrounded by other residents beside the busy nursing station, she seemed somewhere else. She was sitting rather straight with her arms tattooed completely by bruises and drawn tightly to her chest, lips even tighter, her head turned toward the wall and eyes closed. 

I approached her slowly and with a gentle voice said, “Tickle Bell is back.” Her mouth moved but I couldn’t understand what she said.

Again, she spoke and this time, I clearly heard her say my name. Slowly, she turned and spoke again. This time, I asked her if she could open her eyes. As she did, she said “Thank you for coming to see me.” “Did you see the children?” To which I said yes. Untrue! I just wanted to affirm her. After all, she’s the one who thinks I am there to entertain children.  I talked with her then as I started to leave, she waved goodbye.

As I was leaving that evening, a torrential rain came and I waited under the shelter of the driveway where a car of people were parked. There were two children in the backseat who pointed at me excitedly. Without another thought, I went into clown antics. This night was the first time I ever encountered children at this facility.

Last night, I felt sadness in a different way. This morning, that feeling has lifted yet I am still a caring clown.



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  1. Joye Swisher


    We all need to debrief after visiting our Elders. This is such a powerful story and one, with your permission, I’d love to share. When we visit a residence monthly for a year or so, we do get to know the Elders that live there. We develop a special bond. We can become their playmates, their friends. It touches their spirit as well as our spirit. Sharing these stories is important for our growth as well as the growth of our alley.

    By reading your story, I felt as if I were with you. You can see why I encourage our clowns to partner up so they can debrief afterwards. Thank you for taking the time to share this with me today.

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