Today when I stepped off the elevator I saw her slowly pushing her chair blindly towards me away from the direction of her room. She was deep in thought mumbling incoherent questions, seemingly unconscious of her surroundings as she wheeled by with much effort. "I love you, where am I? Take me to my room" A sadness filled my heart as I gripped her hand and said a simple hello.
That's the sad part about nursing homes...most people go there to die....well no one uses those words, but for the majority of admissions, that is the reason they go there...to wait, but hopefully live well till that time comes. I've gone there 3-5 times a week for over 3 years, so I have seen many come and go. Susie was a perkie lady always dressed to kill with accessories that rarely matched. In the beginning, she looked quite nice, I hardly even knew she was wearing a wig. Her mind had already slipped but she was friendly and outgoing. Not exactly appropriate at times, one day she noticed my adorable grandson in my daughter's arms, and asked about the number of my son-in-law's testicles!
Another day she rolled into the front of the chapel and yelled, "Good morning everyone!" Silence, dead silence..... then..."Well I know I'm Jewish but I know how to say hello!" From the back of the room a voice boomed, "Good morning Susie!!..God bless you!" It was Daniel, a rather large Phillipino man, crippled by a stroke. I recognized him from Mass, he'd say every line of the liturgy with such feeling and always greeted everyone with a "God bless you!"
The road down hill leads to our floor, though it is referred to as "stepped-up care" I remember the day Susie arrived on our floor, I was sad to see her there, surely she was deteriorating. But as her eye caught mine she yelled..."Oh no....it's you, Miss America!!! And you have your own teeth! And I love you!"
Slowly, Susie has gone downhill. Her clothes are soiled with food early in the day, her chair which she once decorated with a million plastic bags tied to it's arms, go unnoticed by her now. Her lap, usually filled with her overflowing purse, is empty. Her pale white face, void of make-up bears the signs of old age, now a troubled, wearied, worried state. But she always has her wig on, even if it's slipping.
I'm a person who celebrates life, all life. I've been to births and many deaths. I believe in life, even when it's broken by time....I believe in the value of every life and celebrate it, even the lives of those who have grown old, whose stories are silenced...but today I am just sad..Susie's wig is gone.