1/09/2007

Everyday Miracle- or Rise Up Lazarus

I know, after the past few posts, you're trying to figure out whether your heretofore somewhat normal blogger friend has lost what little hold she had on her sanity. I hate to say this, but I doubt this post is going to do much to reassure you.

The penny thing?

It continues.

I have to admit, finding the second penny in my bed this morning was a bit of a jolt. I mean, that's two days in a row.

But I was able to set it aside, even to almost forget about it as I went about my day, traveling to visit my patients in the nursing homes.

Once there I was met with a host of problems but chief among them was a man who's been beating up staff, swearing, cursing and in general, being an out of control maniac. My friends at the nursing home didn't ask much- they just wanted me to fix him- preferably today.

This gentleman's been on my list of referrals for a month now but everytime I go to interview him, he's off somewhere- in physical therapy or at the hospital. It's always something. Well no such luck today.

There he was in his room- a big guy with thick, beefy hands that looked like they were quite effective at throttling meddlesome social workers.

Strangely enough, to me his hands were the only thing that looked dangerous about him.

He sat hunched in his wheelchair, wearing a pair of old-man striped pajamas and looking very, very sad. I tried to remind myself that the charge nurse said he'd grab me if he could, especially if I bent over him and he could reach a breast! (Which contrary to her position, I see as a sign of health, don't you?)

Anyway...

When I walked into the room and identified myself, he looked up at me like a little, lost boy and I just melted. I pulled a chair up to the narrow bedtable an aide had placed in front of my new patient and looked him right in the eyes.

"It must be awful to find yourself in here," I said.

I had to say this three times, with increasing volume because he is almost deaf. At last, when I was just certain the entire home was listening, he heard and nodded.

"How are you feeling?"

He can't make out what I'm saying, so finally I abandon caution, walk around the cart, lean over him and talk directly into his ear.

About one-third of the time, he seems to understand me...but the rest of the time, he gives me nonsense answers.

At one point he covers the tip of my cowboy boot with his huge foot, smiles and says, "Nice boots. My daughter has a pair like that..." Once again, he seems to drift off into a totally unrelated mumbling and I abandon the thought of doing any cognitive testing- at least for now.

I am thinking of leaving when he suddenly straightens in his chair, looks right at me and says, "Pick up the penny!"

"What?" I ask, not able to believie what I'm hearing.

"Pick up that penny!"

He is as clear as a bell. He points to the floor and repeats, "The penny!"

In light of the past day's penny encounters, I am hypersensitized to any mention of the word "penny."

I drop to the ground on all fours and begin searching the floor for a penny I know isn't there. But still I search throughly- under the bed, under the narrow lip of the heater, everywhere.

My old man is getting increasingly agitated. I can see now how he could really get tough to handle. I try to appease him by following his gaze to the spot on the floor that he's identified as having a penny on it. There is nothing there but I pat the linoleum with my fingers anyway, all the while checking with my patient.

"Here?" I ask. "Here?" I keep moving my hand in widening circles until at last he nods.

"Yes, there! The penny...he..." He mumbles something and I believe I hear the words "he" and "said" or "left" but I can't be sure. "Pick it up!" I hear those words with crystal clarity.

I lift my hand to show him there is no penny and stare at the spot beneath my fingertips.

There on the floor is a penny-sized outlined circle. It is so faint I know my guy can't have seen it. He couldn't even see the 2" letters on the notepad I held up to him five minutes before.

I look up at the ceiling and grin. "All right, Dad," I whisper. "I hear you."

I stroke the faint, dark circle before rising to say goodbye. I rub my new friend's stooped shoulders and tell him I will be back to see him soon. He gives me a sweet grin.

It is not until later, as I am driving away, that I realize the significance of this man being the one to tell me to "Pick up the penny!"

My new patient's name is Lazarus.

2 comments:

Teena said...

Wow! You're really freaking me out now, Girl!!

Heather said...

Hi Nancy..
I've read this post over a few times and it just gives me shivers. But along with those shivers, there is a smile. I guess that as far as signs go, this penny thing is a bit of a humdinger. I just think it's great and it proves to me once more that there is more that just "this", as long as we are willing to pay attention and see it.