Posts Tagged ‘Elder’

Anna

November 26, 2013

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I was drawn to Anna’s room this morning because I missed her in the dining room at breakfast. She was always there before me. As I clocked in at the nursing home each morning, and walked through the big open room, no one would be there but Anna. She’d wave me over, and make me twirl in front of her old eyes so she could marvel at my outfit for the day. If she absolutely loved the entire ensamble, she’d clap her hands, and reach out to kiss me. Otherwise, she’d give me a compliment on the bit of pink in my scarf, or the buckle on my belt, or tell me the blue of my blouse matched my eyes.

She wasn’t there this morning. At ninety-six, she’s been like one of those proverbial cats with nine lives. She’s fought off every cold and pneumonia that came her way, and continued to smoke through it all. “When you’re my age, honey, and you’ve lost all your real loves, your twin sister, your husband, your friends, who cares if you die from lung cancer? There’s no one left to grieve for you, and I love me a cigarette.”

I went to her room where I found her small frail body nestled among blankets and pillows. The oxygen tubing ran from her nose to a whirring machine at her bedside. Her eyes were closed and she struggled with every shallow breath.

I pulled up a chair, and took her hand. I sat for a long time rubbing my thumb across the fragile vein-lined skin of her hand. I remembered our trip to the football game where her husband’s University of Virginia Cavaliers played her Virginia Tech Hokies. She stood and cheered and laughed about how her husband was frowning down on her antics from heaven. “He never was a good loser,” she’d said.

At times Anna searched for Virginia, her twin. When reminded that Virginia had passed away some years ago, Anna would say, “Oh hell, that’s right. Once you’re connected with someone from the start, it’s hard to let go.”

As I got up to leave Anna’s bedside, I leaned over and hugged her one last time. I whispered in her ear that it was alright to let go, that Virginia and that Cavalier husband of hers were waiting for her with their arms outstretched, all she had to do was let go. I kissed her forehead and told her I loved her.

Anna completed her journey on this earth today. Godspeed my friend

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Her Still, Perfect Form (Part 2)

March 3, 2013

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link to Part 1:
https://trainswhistle.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/her-still-perfect-form-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?”

TBC

Dragon Lady

December 31, 2012

“Get out, go on now. You heard me. Leave.”

I’ve come into Betty’s room at the nursing home for my morning visit. She lays curled inward, knees to chin, arms, hands and fingers curled tight into a protective shield at her chest. She faces the wall.

“I came to check on you, to see if you need anything.”

Her voice comes out in a too sweet, sing-song imitation of my greeting, “I’ve come to check on you,” she mocks. “to see if you neeed anything. No, I don’t need anything. Just leave.”

It’s dark in the room with the curtains drawn. “At least let me open your drapes,” I say. “The sun’s shining outside. Maybe it’ll improve your mood.”

“Oh hell, do what you want to do, then get out,” she says, sighing loudly, frustrated with my need to help.

I sweep the fabric aside, and the sun streams into the room. “There, isn’t that more cheerful?”

“If you say so,” she harrumphs.

I smile, turn toward the door, and when I reach the threshold I call over my shoulder, “We’re ordering Chinese for lunch today.”

Her voice is almost inaudible. “From the Dragon Lady?”

“You’re the only Dragon Lady I know,” I say, laughing.

“Yeah, yeah, just shut up,” she throws back at me. “Order me some shrimp fried rice and an egg roll.”

“Extra soy sauce?”

“No, A1 Steak sauce,” she shoots back, turning her head to stick her tongue out at me.

I blow her a kiss from the doorway. “I’ll see you at noon,” I say. “Save me a seat.”

“Yeah, sure. You can take your place at the end of the line,” I hear her grump as I walk away.

O

My Paula

June 21, 2012

In the midst of my grief over my father’s death, my elder friend Paula had the audacity to die on me too. She and I were instigators at best, bandits at worst. She recognized me when I walked down the hall of the nursing home and called out to me. “Hey sweetie, where you been?” I could have been gone a week or ten minutes, it didn’t matter. I was her long lost friend. I’d bend over her wheelchair; she’d place her hands on either side of my face and kiss me right on the mouth. We had no shame.

She was from New York City, a bohemian hippie who wore full-flowing gauze skirts, peasant tops, open toe sandals and no bra way before it was popular. She wore her hair long, sometimes pinned up and sometimes flowing around her shoulders. She colored it a whore red and put on lipstick to match.

“What’s on tap today?” I’d ask.

“Something stronger than beer I hope,” she’d answer.

Paula had the most beautiful lilting voice and sang so sweetly that those who happened to catch a note, stopped mid-stride and turned to her, waiting for the melody to continue.  She studied classical music at Juilliard when she was a girl and gave voice lessons for a fee when she graduated.

She was married five or six times. I asked her once why so many and she said, “Why would anyone stop at just one when there are so many to choose from?  I’d have lived with them all, but my mother insisted I marry. She was so old fashioned.” Each of her children was fathered by a different man. Her babies scattered over the world and sent her letters, cards and packages from exotic places.

She had the tiniest feet and danced wildly upon them, swinging her thin hips and tossing her head back and from side to side, smiling behind that curtain of red hair. Her snapping green eyes sparkled with mischief. She was game for any adventure and we took several.

One cold December we bundled in black velvet capes over satin dresses and attended a gala at the theater in town. It was an Opera. I’d never been to one, wasn’t sure I’d like it, but Paula assured me I’d fall in love. At ninety, in her three inch heels, tottering at my side, a purple chapeau affixed in a jaunty angle with a fancy rhinestone hat pin on her head, Paula sparkled. Her glitter and glow put everyone else to shame that night. I can still hear her toe tapping to the music, and feel her small fingers tightening around mine as she let the music take her into another world. She was right. I did fall in love that night, but not with the Opera. I fell in love with her.

I can only imagine that my red headed Paula came into this world on the notes of a song, because on Monday, she took her last breath to the music of Vivaldi, another red head with a passion for music.

 

Antonio Vivaldi: Opera”ARGIPPO” RV 697, Act 2 – Aria (Zanaida) “Io son rea dell’onor mio.”