4/20/2007

Things That Go Bump In The Night...

Mary never lies to me. In fact, most of my old guys tell the truth straight up, whether I like it or not.

"Yeah, you got them big hips and legs," she says, smiling like this is a compliment. "But they're nice. That's good. Men like that."

I smile back, but I swear off jelly beans and chocolate covered mints.

"Sometimes I hear things in here," she says. Her facial expression hasn't changed. She is still smiling but a chill runs up my spine.

"What do you hear, Mary?" I ask.

Mary hesitates. Her eyes waver away from mine for a brief second, enough for me to know she's learned the cardinal rule of The Home: "Don't tell. Don't tell anyone because if you do- we'll pay you back."

"Nothing," Mary says. "I think it's just them checking on me."

But it's too late, I know Mary sees and hears everything. I heard her talk about the lady in the room next door who cried out at night for a nurse and how the aides got tired of answering her call button. "I heard them laughing about her but then one night, she died. I heard this choking sound and they all went rushing in there. But she was gone."

I know Mary thinks her neighbor was neglected, but she won't talk. She's afraid. I have tried to reassure her but the trouble with me is, I leave. I get to walk out and go home. I'm only there two afternoons a week and that's not enough protection to make Mary feel safe.

Are you scared yet? Because one day this will be you and me. Go ahead and think, oh no, my family would never...but they might. They might be faced with your overwhelming medical problems and feel there are no other options. They will come to visit you, the good ones always do, but they have lives and jobs and families. They will get tired and eventually their visits will grow less frequent and you will be on your own too much of the time.

God help you if you have dementia. You can't tell on the staff when you can't remember your own name.

So Mary and I sit, her in her bed, me in her wheelchair, and go where she feels comfortable taking me...

"I told you I saw a ghost once," she reminds me.

"I was goin' across the street to ask Mr. Harold what time was it because our clock broke. My Mama was standin' up on the porch watchin' me, too. She said, she saw this little light go down along the other side of Mr. Harold's house and she thought it was the newspaper boy but it wasn't."

Mary's eyes are huge. "All I saw was legs, not no head, or body or nothin' but legs! I went runnin' back to Mama and she said 'What's the matter,child, you see something?'" Mary nods her head emphatically. "I told her 'Yes, Ma'am, I did!' And she said, 'I thought so. I saw it too, one time.'"

Mary smiles again. "Mr. Harold, he said it was his first wife. He said she come round all the time. She be standing out by the wood pile when he come out to get wood, just lookin' at him."

I say, "Wow! That must've freaked Mr. Harold out- his second wife asleep in the front room and his first wife waiting for him out by the wood pile!"

Mary shakes her head no, still smiling. "He said it didn't bother him none. He said she probably just want to see him."

"But he married someone else. Wasn't he worried his first wife would be mad?"

Mary just shakes her head and gives me her sanguine smile. "Now why would she be mad about that? She's dead!"

I can't believe Mary and I are discussing the feelings of a dead first wife, popping in to visit her husband and his new wife. But when I put it into the context of all the things we are not discussing, it makes perfect, beautiful sense. We are discussing things other people probably wouldn't believe, things we can't just tell anybody because they'd think we're nuts, or worse, imagining things again.

3 comments:

G'ma Bob said...

Do you believe that there is such a thing as a good nursing home? Or is that a figment of the imaginations of those of us who "put" our loved ones in homes? Your words are hitting a little too close to home as far as taking hope away. My Mom is not making a good adjustment to her facility. In her mind, in order to return to her "pre-fall" retirement home, she needs to walk without a walker. So as her joints deteriorate and she is in a great deal of pain with every step she takes, she continues to refuse the wheelchair, and to actively put herself in additional pain, in order to strive for this goal which she is never going to achieve. Because the part that she no longer can remember is that there are additional issues that will prevent her from returning. Her memory issues had adversely affected her ability to self-medicate, her vision no longer reaches as far as the floor, so her mobility issues are quite serious when she is "on her own". I had been thinking I needed to point these realities out to her so that she would perhaps quit hurting herself in the name of walking that isn't going to get her anywhere anyway. Now I wonder. Thoughts?

Billy The Blogging Poet said...

I used to make deliveries to all the area nursing homes. I've found entire wards with nobody on duty, no one to stop anyone from walking in off the street......

Even the high dollar homes are sorely lacking in professional staff and services.

One day I used my truck to block off Lawndale Drive and help get an old man out of the street who was walking aimlessly through 4 lanes at 5PM. It was dangerous as several speeding cars barely missed my truck. It's scary turning cross ways in the road when traffic is running 20 MPH over the speed limit. When we got him out of the road he had no idea how he got there and was wearing a wrist band from a nursing home within sight of where I found him.

Nursing homes scare me.

Honestly, when my time draws near I want to end life the way native Americans once did-- walk far off in the wilderness, pick a place with soft grass and a good view, sit down and die.

Getting eaten by buzzards, bears and bugs seems so much better than the way we do it now and costs a lot less.

That said, thanks to my current medications I hope it will be a lot of years into the future.

PS. Your hips aren't that big...

Teena said...

It must be great meeting so many people and having such interesting conversations with people.