Nursing Home Reflections
I sit in the stiff chair, the sides pushing into
my legs, slowly crushing them into numbness. I sit perfectly still so as not to
wake her, this angel, my mother, asleep on the bed that offers no relief from
the pain she endures. Even in sleep she cries out and mumbles into the
Sounds flutter across my senses, a reminder that she is not the sole owner of agony. The man across the hall, crying out for anyone to douse the searing flames of hurt that attack him, desperation in his pleading voice for relief. There is none. The nurses have given all the medicine they can, and then closed the door trapping him in his own private hell.
In the same room with my mother, I hear the lilting voices of an African family speaking their native tongue. I can see their bright colorful clothing, a cheerful clash against the bleakness of the room. The music of their voices is interrupted at times from the tears and ragged gasps of their own loved one who like my mother cannot walk .I cannot begin to imagine the emotional pain of these two women, my mother and her roommate that have walked and run and used strong legs their whole lives to care lovingly for generations of family ,only to now lie on a bed dependant on everyone else for every single need .I am crushed by the realization that as horrible as their cries are from the physical pain, that they pale in comparison to the emotional pain they feel in this new prison placed upon their bodies.
So like a hospital in that there are medicines, and meals brought in. There are wheelchairs and hospital beds and the vases of forlorn flowers that seem to know that the powers of their blooms are lost in the blur of activity created just to have the energy to hope. One thing is missing and it is with much relief I identify the missing thing as the smell of death. For this is not a place to die. This is a place to learn to live again. To will shriveled limbs into some kind of slow dance with physical therapy so that they might someday dance alone again. It is a place where proof of healing is seen in the sight of wheelchairs being propelled by once useless feet, of men and women in a slow gait control steps with a cane or walker thankful that they have a gait at all.
She stirs looks over to see that I am still there and then drifts to sleep again safe in the knowledge that she is not alone..I have discovered at last in my reflections from my
chair side seat that the greatest gift I can give my mother is myself.
I am an unlikely gift, a lumpy package crushed into the wrapping of my chair, but filled with love unending for the woman that gave me the greatest gift of all...my life.
This was written as my mother was undergoing physical therapy and treatment for lung cancer. It was discovered after I wrote this(no thanks to the nursing home) that the cancer had spread to her bones. My mother left that nursing home a final time (against their wishes) because I went over their head to call an ambulance. She passed the next day so the last thing I was truely able to give her was myself sitting beside her and just being there for her and loving her.