For a couple of years I’ve volunteered with a local hospice organization. Mostly I visit patients who are lonely, or I sit with them while their caregivers are away. That’s where this little story came from.
By Barbara Meyers 10/31/18
The view out the tall glass doors is of a beautifully manicured golf course. Palm trees, their fronds swaying in the breeze. Florida sunshine. A nearby lake, and one further away, where water shoots up from a manmade geyser. Golf carts cruise past, headed to the seventh tee. Men in polo shirts and khaki shorts address their balls, swing their clubs. Return to their golf carts and drive off. Because they still can.
He gazes out, past the lanai, but what does he see? Does he remember when he was one of them? When he wore khaki shorts and drove a golf cart. When he engaged in light-hearted ribbing after a bad drive and groaned over a missed putt.
From where he sits on the sofa, Vivaldi on the portable CD player next to him, he sees everything but can make sense of nothing. His home gleams. Not a spot of dust anywhere. His wife, with nothing else to do but care for him, has become obsessive. Dust she can control. A husband whose mind deteriorates a little more each day is beyond her.
She sits next to him and he reaches for her hand. She sighs, remembering a time when such a touch would lead to something other than his chilled fingers clutching hers. His silent plea from empty eyes. Don’t leave me.
She won’t, of course. Where would she go? For better or worse. In sickness and in health. If it were her, he’d stay. She knows he would. But life as she knew it has ended.
She knows what she’s lost. Even though she still has most of it. The comfortable home with its beautiful furnishings. The chef’s kitchen that now only sees soup heated in its microwave oven, or eggs scrambled on one of its six burners. Gone are the days of dinner parties. Cocktail parties. Holiday gatherings. Birthday and anniversary celebrations. Gone is the fun. The flavor.
She never knew how many things money couldn’t buy. Youth. Health. Memories.
She too gazes out the tall windows and beyond. Past the upholstered chairs, remembering going over fabric choices with the decorator. The view now marred only by his walker, braked near the sofa.
He nods off again, his head to the side, his mouth open. But his grip on her hand is strong. His body hasn’t given up.
His shoes are thick-soled sneakers, Velcro instead of laces. Blue slacks and a blue sweater vest over an old polo shirt. One he used to wear when he golfed. He opens his eyes and smiles at her. She smiles back. He nods off.
She moves closer to him. Squeezes his hand. Lays her head on his shoulder. Feels the warmth of him. There. With her. “I love you, babe.”
She closes her eyes.