link to Part 1:
On Saturday afternoon Jack came out of the room looking for Emma. He wandered the long hallways, knocking on doors, peering inside to see if she was there. That night, his usual sound sleep was interrupted. He got himself up in the wheelchair to check her bed. She was gone. He wondered where she was, what had happened to her. It wasn’t like her to be out after dark, gone in the middle of the night. He wheeled to the door of the room and asked a nursing assistant passing by if she had seen his wife.
“She’s still in the hospital Jack.”
“In the hospital? What happened? Why didn’t someone tell me?” he asked.
“We did Jack. You must have forgotten,” the nursing assistant said.
“How could I forget something like that?” he asked.
“You just woke up Jack. It’s easy to forget things when you’ve been asleep. I’ll call the hospital and check on her for you. Let me tuck you in and I’ll come back with the news,” she said.
“Thank you,” Jack said, letting the nursing assistant help him.
On Sunday, Jack fell. He had gotten the wheelchair stuck between the double doors leading to the parking lot. He was trying to pull the chair free. A nurse found him on his knees, struggling. When she asked what happened, he said, “I lost my balance. I need to find Emma.”
At lunch Monday, he wasn’t eating. “Just try a little bit Jack,” the nurse said.
“I’m worried sick,” Jack said. “I can’t take a bite of anything until she gets here. Emma is always here for lunch.”
“She’s in the hospital Jack. Remember? She fell and broke her hip Friday.”
Jack looked up, alarm on his face. “Oh, no. She fell and broke her hip?”
“Yes, on Friday. She was standing at the sink, lost her balance and fell. She broke her hip. They operated on Saturday. She’ll be home soon.”
After his shower on Tuesday, Jack stopped at the nurse’s station. “Can you tell me where Jack Arthur lives?” he asked.
“Just down the hall, Jack. Room 242. It’s the third door on the left,” the nurse said.
“Can you tell me where Emma is? I haven’t seen her this morning,” Jack said.
“She’s in the hospital, Jack.”
“In the hospital?” he asked, his voice rising, his eyes wide. “What do you mean she’s in the hospital? What happened? Why didn’t someone let me know?”
And so it went. Jack searched and asked. Staff members reassured and explained. Mid-morning, a housekeeper found Jack sitting with his head in his hands, sobbing. “I’ve lost the only woman I’ve ever loved,” he said. “Why would Emma leave me?”
A nurse called the hospital to ask someone to take a phone to Emma so she could reassure Jack. The staff there tried, but Emma’s voice was weak, and Jack’s hearing was poor.
That afternoon, the nursing home arranged for the facility bus to carry Jack to the hospital. He might not remember he had been to see Emma, but in the moment he was there, seeing her, being with her, he might find some comfort.
It had been awhile since Jack was outside. “It sure is beautiful out here. Look at all these colors. I don’t remember the trees being this big. Look at all these cars. Emma would love riding on this bus. I wish she was here. I want to tell her about this,” he said on the twenty minute trip to the hospital.
“Room 502,” the volunteer at the front desk said. “Take this hallway to the elevators. She’s on the fifth floor.”
“Fancy place,” Jack said. “Look at all these paintings. They’re beautiful. Emma would love them. She likes my drawings, but they aren’t nearly as fancy or pretty as these. She should come here and visit. Remind me to tell her about it and maybe you could bring us back here sometime.”
“Sure Jack, I’ll be glad to,” the driver said as she pushed his wheelchair toward Emma’s room.
Emma was in the bed by the door, oxygen tubing in her nose, an IV attached to her bruised arm. Her eyes were closed.
“Oh my God, what happened?” Jack asked. “Was she in some sort of an accident? Emma, Sweetheart, can you hear me?”