Six Months Ago
Mrs. Mathews, are you up, dear”? The nurse quietly cracked open the apartment door and tapped. It was shortly after the resident had returned from dinner, and she saw her sitting in her black wheelchair, glued to the TV in the far corner of the small living room. “How are you, Eloise”? she delicately inquired, slowly walking into the resident’s peripheral vision.
The hobbled old woman craned her head and smiled sweetly. She was wrapped in her favorite quilt, supple and color-muted from years of wear and washings. Her short white hair was fluffed in round curls, and her gnarled hands lay flaccid in her lap. “I fine,” she croaked.
“I have your new Coumadin prescription.” The nurse pulled out a bottle of capsules from the pocket of her neatly-pressed white smock. “It was just delivered. Your doctor called it in at Walgreen’s. I’ll add them to your pill tray and take out the old ones.”
“I no know. My huthban, I mean dotor, no tell me—”
“Don’t you worry. His name is on the bottle.”
Brightview was a total-care facility nestled along the murmuring waters of Atlanta’s Chattahoochee River near the I-75 crossing of the Interstate 285 Perimeter. All the residents had separate apartments in the four-floor structure with 24 hour, on-call care, physiotherapy, a full service dining facility, library, recreation and prayer rooms. It was expensive to live there, but Brightview had a long waiting list. The organization was well respected, and the staff catered with courtesy and respect to the special needs of every resident.
“I’m sorry I interrupted you,” the nurse said. “I’ll put the new bottle in the bathroom cabinet with your others.”
“No — yes. Thankoo.”
“You just have a nice evening.” The nurse added the bottle, shut the cabinet and bathroom doors and backed out of the apartment, patiently waiting for the faint click as the door closed and locked.
Such a shame, she mused. Many Brightview residents like Mrs. Mathews were stroke victims, having completely lost their ability to effectively communicate. Mrs. Mathews couldn’t sort her words effectively. When she selected one, something else invariably would come out. To make things worse, her mouth wouldn’t form the words the way she wanted. It was frustrating for her. All her thoughts seemed to pile up behind a face reflecting grim acceptance of her personal prison. The incessant strokes had progressively limited and narrowed the quality of her life. One of her arms was withered, her fingers were disfigured with Arthritis, and she’d lost the ability to write legibly, but she could still manage to get to her feet from the wheelchair to use the custom-made commode in the bathroom and move to and from her bed. When her children paid visits, she would just listen and smile, unable to share her feelings, impressions or fears, often laughing aloud to let them know she understood what they were saying. She always tried her best to follow the directions of her doctors, her outside caretaker, and the Brightview nurses. She wanted to be a good resident.
When she heard the latch on the apartment door click shut from the nurse’s departure, she wheeled over to the table where she read her mail, magazines and books. She was feeling more fatigued than usual and decided to take her evening meds and watch one episode of her favorite program, Law and Order, before she went to bed.
She fingered out the pills from the compartment marked for bedtime and carefully washed each down with sips of bottled water.
Half way through Law and Order, strange feelings began pulling at her mind and coursing through her body, waves of long-forgotten desire. The face of her deceased husband seemed to morph into one of the characters on the TV screen. He was suddenly young and handsome again, and she stirred in her wheelchair, remembering past lovemaking, and in confused anguish reached to her private parts. The memories rushed her to a beautiful pinnacle of release, her body knotting in rigidity. The tautness slowly dissipated. A thin film of perspiration clung across her forehead, and she smiled sweetly as the TV and the room faded into blackness….