Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nursing home

Stop it. Stop putting this off. Just get in the car and go on over there.

So, I get in the car and go on over to The Gardens. Trying not to be so distracted on the way that I wreck my car, I focus on driving, which I can still do. I think of everything like that now. I think, "Wow! I can still do this! I can type. Wow! I can see. I recognize letters and I can spell."

I arrive and walk unassisted into the building after entering the code (which I remember) at the front door. I turn left at the hall 10 and walk down to my mother's room. I knock and enter. It's dark. She keeps the blinds closed all the time. I hate that. Why do old people keep things all closed up? She used to always open the drapes and curtains in the morning. Not anymore.

The rooms smell funny. It's hard to describe, hard to characterize. I hate that smell. I look around for what might be causing it but can't find anything obvious. It's just, maybe it's just the way old people smell.

She's always there. She's either asleep on the couch under the down comforter (she's always cold, she says), or in the little kitchen or in the bedroom trying to do something that she can't really do. Her hair is never combed anymore. She always looks like she just woke up. I try to comb it but it's winter and the static electricity just makes it impossible to manage. It just flies out in fine, straight flight from her little head. She is really skinny now, like she was when I was a little girl. Probably 95 pounds, if that; 5 feet tall. Very petite.

We chat a little while and then I start looking around for what needs to be done. There are always lots of things all messed up. There are clothes in the wrong places -- dirty clothes in the trash can or laying on the chair, rarely in the clothes hamper. There are clothes in the bottom of the closet. She can't hang things up anymore. She's got little snacks that she can't open so I put some of the contents out on a plate for her by the couch. I water her plant, the one the church sent over for Great Grandma George back in 1956 when she had a stroke. I check to see that the bed linens and towels are clean. I straighten the rug; straighten the paintings; arrange the chair, the basket, the side table.

I check to see that the clothes she has on are right for the weather; that they are right-side out; front in the front, that they are clean; that she's had her shower; no scratches or bruises. If necessary, I help her get her shower or get her into clean clothes. It's almost always a very frustrating struggle. She hates to be confronted with what she can't do, even obliquely.

We chat a bit. I tell her some news. She tells me some news. I hear the complaints; I hear about what she's given up on lately because she doesn't care about it anymore. The truth is usually that she can't do it anymore. I love her so much. I love who she is, what she's been through, that she's a survivor, a teacher, pragmatic. But I hate this.

"I'm ready to go. I would like to walk out in the parking lot and be hit by a car," she says.

"Mother, what are you talking about?"

"I don't really like it here. I wish I could just die. I'm ready to die."

"But Mother..."

"You don't know what it's like to have no hope that anything good will happen to you."

I just stare at her, incredulous. "But Mother, you are dead. We both are. We're waiting for next life."

"Oh, I didn't realize that," she says with a smile, that "oh, now it makes sense" knowing smile.

"Well, you used to realize it. You just forgot."


"It's so cold here," she says again, her voice trailing off.

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