With only twenty-four hours in a day, I don’t get nearly enough done. I move from project to project trying to keep one step ahead of the next deadline. I have so many things that I have my heart set on, that sometimes, I just mentally flip a coin to see which project can wait—or be cancelled.
This weekend, I hustled to get a bundle of stories to the post office, and headed to the lake to watch my youngest granddaughter cheer at a basketball game. It was fun to watch her shake her pom-poms and chant cheers through a megaphone. My grandson played with his cars on the bleachers where the grownups watched the game and, of course, the cheerleaders.
After lunch at a Mexican restaurant, I decided that while I was in the neighborhood, so to speak, I’d drop in on my brother at the nursing home and see my mom at her nearby apartment. I called my mom since she doesn’t just sit at home, in case someone wants to drop by. She assured me that she would be home soon. Rather than wait at her house, I decided to make use of the time to visit my brother, Donnie.
“My roommate needs help,” Donnie said when I walked through the door. His strokes have interfered with his speech, but he was sitting in his wheelchair, bright eyed. He certainly looked much better than he did a few weeks ago when I visited him in the hospital. At the hospital, he was so miserable that he just kept saying he wanted to die.
“Okay, I’ll go get someone,” I told him.
When I returned to the room, he looked at me and said, “Who are you?”
“I’m your sister, Linda,” I said. Donnie is nearly blind so I knew it wasn’t that he didn’t know who I was, he simply could not see me well enough.
“Oh,” he said. When the aide came in, she mentioned that Donnie’s light wasn’t working. This started him on a rant about everything that wasn’t working in his room: the nightlight, the door that wouldn’t shut on his closet, and his opinion of housekeeping for not fixing everything.
“I’ll tell them,” the aide said, making her exit when she realized Donnie was past teasing and had become angry.
“I can’t walk, can’t move my arms, and can’t fix the things that are wrong. They haven’t even turned my calendar,” he said. Sure enough, the calendar with giant numbers was still on February. I flipped the calendar and sat down on his bed.
Now that he was a little calmer, I told him how much better he looked. I asked him if he was eating and he started telling me about refusing to eat the “pre-chewed” food as he called it.
I knew what Donnie was talking about because Jim’s food was eventually “mechanically softened” and later pureed. It never looked appetizing, and I told Donnie how my niece referred to Jim’s “mystery meat” when we couldn’t determine what kind of meat it was.
“Are they giving you regular water now too?” I asked.
“Hell, yes,” he said. “I told them to leave that thickening out. That stuff just made me thirstier.”
That reminded me of when Jim strangled and choked too easily and his liquids were thickened. I always thought that his thirst could not be quenched and felt bad that he couldn’t have his big travel cup filled with ice water.
After our visit, I hugged Donnie and told him I wouldn’t stay away so long next time. “I want to spend more time with my family,” I said.
“Family is the most important thing,” he told me. “If it wasn’t for mom and my brothers and sisters, I would just give up.” He wiped tears from his eyes with his left hand, the one he uses the best.
By the time I left the nursing home, the soft rain had changed to a torrential downpour. I didn’t let the rain delay me from visiting my mom and merrily splashed through the puddles of water on her walkway. When I set my heart on it, a thunderstorm and downpour won’t even slow me down.
Copyright © March 2011 by Linda Fisher