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The lines on her face explained that she went through a lot of sadness and a lot of happiness. Her life was long and it was good, and now it was almost over. Her legs swelled and her age spotted hand wistfully moved cards back and forth in a digital game of spades playing out on the other side of her screen. Jackson and I went to visit her over a recent break. “It’s the worst realization: this may be the last time I ever get to see my grandma alive.”
Upset and complaining, they moved her from the comfort of her home into an old nursing home down the street. As Jackson and I walked in the door our first night there, an orderly pushed past us into the frigid night. “Everything okay?” we asked. It wasn’t. One of the women tried to leave in the night, and now she was out in a slight nightgown in the unfriendly 14 degree weather. “Let us know if you see her,” he called as he disappeared into the cold.
Her dimly lit room smelled the same way nursing homes always smell: the air never moved, the stale no-sugar pudding for diabetics, and an occasional waft of unwashed clothes and bedsheets. It wasn’t a horrible facility… it was just what every nursing home always seemed to be.
As Jackson held her hand, she began to cry. The landscape of her face shifting and moving, forming into a mass of sadness. “I just wish I could go home. I don’t like it here. I want to go home and be with my sweetheart.” Her sweetheart, Jack, is Jackson’s namesake.
I watched from outside the scene, caught in a daze and wondering what it would be like to be caught in a room living an everlasting groundhog day. He tenderly held her hand, nodding occasionally and smiling as she talked to him. I admire him so deeply.
My eyes finally refocused and their words started tumbling into my mind as I concentrated on being present. The were talking about The Situation. Why she was there. Her voice softly explained the crux of the situation: “I can’t get myself out of bed at night when I need to go to the bathroom. Jack isn’t strong enough to help me out of bed. I have to be here for someone to help me.” I looked into the bathroom near her chair and sighed. The one thing keeping this woman from living at home with her husband of 62 years was the silly bodily function of needing to get out what goes in. How absurd. She began to cry again and we both murmured empty words of encouragement. What can the young say to the old?
The gloominess of the situation pushed me back into thought and I saw Jackson evolve into an old man with a big white beard and kind eyes. I was pushed away from him by the great hand of time and forced into a chair in a dank nursing home. He visited me twice a day. And it was horrible.
We walked back to the car, and Jackson grabbed me and kissed me on my head. I kissed him back as he opened the car door for me and we sped away, but my mind remained back with a woman caught in a nursing home, waiting for time to snatch her away for good. I felt powerless.