Throughout the last season of life
No one would or could work that evening. So I did. They knew they could call me when they had trouble finding someone to take over for the care for those old people sick at home. I just had to take care of 22 people. Eleven couples. Living in small homes next to the nursing home at an out off the way spot for the outside world.
It was going to be a busy night they told me. I probably had to run around to take care of everyone. But still I started with a smile on my face.
They knew I was coming that evening. They knew me. I often worked at a ward next to their homes and talked to them when I saw them, asking how they were doing. I called them my neighbors.
As always when I started work at a different ward then my own, I started to pass every door and showed my face to let them know I was there and they could call me when there was a problem. But I didn't get past home number two. "No Pat, you need to have coffee first". That was no problem at that time. There were no alarm bells, no phone calls, no distraction at all.
Home number three. A man who can't leave his own home anymore because his wife is too sick and there are no others who can watch her for a few hours. He talks about his worries, his dependence, and his troubles. He just tells his story and after him using a few handkerchiefs, he's feeling better.
Home number four. The Mrs. had to go to the bathroom and in the mean time her husband told me how sad he was because he had to be taken care of too. He needed medical attention too. The doctor promised him to come to see him last week, but hadn't come so far yet.
Home number five didn't seem to have any problems. It is a young couple that seems to get by in spite of their mental disabilities. I just said goodbye and walked on to home number six. With a slight hesitation and almost fearfully he asked if it was any problem if he stayed up to watch TV
Phone call. I need to see a woman who lives outside of the vicinity of the nursing home. She is very skinny, has cancer, is lying in her bed next to the window. I had her key so I could walk right in. It was taking a while. She had to go to the bathroom and before I changed her into her nightgown and made everything ready for the night, I made her something to drink and put her medication on the table next to her bed. I had to go back soon. I closed the door behind me, waved and went back to the others.
Home number seven is walking their cat and in home number eight both are asleep already.
Home number nine. The couple was sitting in front of their home. Enjoying the nice evening together. I just waved and they said they were happy to see me again this evening.
Home number ten. The Mr. just wanted to go to bed, he felt sad because he had some bad news from the hospital concerning his health. He was told he needed another operation again. I took care of his medication for the evening and the next morning and took him to bed. And in the mean time, he talked and I listened. Before I left I wished his wife a good night sleep.
Home number eleven. The couple was sitting at the dinner table. They were in silence. The Mrs. tried to smile when I came in, she really just wanted to get out of her wheelchair and lay her head to rest.
The old gipsy next to her was just staring in front of him while usually he was always talking. Telling old stories about the war and his family. While I helped his wife, he suddenly started to speak and tears rolled down his face.
"They found something in my brains" he said, while he walked into the bedroom.
His wife started to cry now too while she played with the rings on my fingers (like she always did when we met at the nursing home) "We didn't have this when we got married 45 years ago. We couldn't afford it. And soon he won't be here anymore". More tears rolled down her cheeks while her fingers held one of the biggest rings on my hand.
The old man was standing by the foot of the bed and while I put the big ring on her finger, the tears started to roll again. He walked up to his wife and gave her a little kiss on her cheeks.
"Hé, you can do that after the ceremony!" The words passed my lips before I really thought about what I was saying.
The Mrs. started laughing. "He did the same thing 45 years ago".
I started to think about what to say next.
"Do you Mathew take Ruth to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, wash her dirty trousers and tease her till you both can't stop laughing, from this day forward, as long as you both want and as long as the neighbors don't start complaining about the noises that come out of the bedroom?" He started laughing. "Sure I do".
"And do you Ruth take Mathew to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, as long you keep him from pulling pranks with the nurses, keep him awake all night, and give him a smack on his ass when he doesn't listen as long as the nurses have fun too?"
"I do too!" Her tears disappeared and her smile got bigger by the minute.
"Now you are married for the second time and you may kiss her" I said.
And while I started to clean up the room, I saw him kiss his wife softly on her lips. Both smiling and just happy for this moment.
I wished them a good wedding night and started to leave the room. She called after me; "You forgot your ring"
"No I didn't" I said. "It's your wedding ring now". I saw how her eyes were shining when I said that.
"Come here" she said, and when I stood next to her, she tried as much as possible to put her arms around my neck and thanked me.
When I walked out of their home, he was following me."Wait a minute" and he put a piece of chocolate into my mouth. "That's instead of the wedding cake" And he smiled and walked back to his home.
For just a moment they could forget their misery, their troubles, and their tears.
These people, depending on the care they get, these people who have to bare more than they can handle at their age. It's sometimes very hard for them throughout this season of their life.
- Throughout the last season of his life
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