The people sitting opposite him in the small room were his people. He knew that and wished he could say it. For a minute, he struggled with trying to form the words. In his mind, he heard them: I’m so glad you’re here. I love you. The garbled vocalizing that came out of his mouth, however, frustrated him to no end.
He could see the sadness and pity on their faces. Faces that he once knew so well, now unrecognizable. He only knew that they were his people. They belonged with him and he with them.
“Do you want to go for a walk, Dad?”
He understood what the woman was asking but couldn’t phrase what he really wanted. Instead, he nodded and smiled in a grimace. His facial gestures no longer worked the way they should.
She helped him up, gently, as if helping an invalid. Suddenly, he had an image, a flash of a memory. A little girl holding his hand, her copper hair shining bright like a penny in the sun; her warm hand in his own; how strong he felt; Daddy, she said, looking up to him with all the love in the world.
Then the memory left, a puff of smoke, and he was bereft, sad beyond reason. Resisting the efforts to assist him, he sagged, dropping to the floor, sobbing. He hit the floor hard, almost pulling the woman down with him. The man with her tried to help, and a nurse rushed in.
“You two should wait outside for a bit,” the stern-looking nurse said, after getting him back on the bed.
“Has this happened before?”
“It’s been happening with much more frequency now. The dosage needs adjusting. He is in the final stages, we think.”
They talked about him as if he weren’t there; as if he couldn’t hear or didn’t know what was going on with his memory and his body. He didn’t want this nurse near him, her calloused hands tugging and probing. She was the one who admonished him constantly, telling him to hurry, quit being so stubborn, behave, stop slobbering. If he were strong again, he would push her aside and walk out the door into the sunshine.
Instead, he allowed the ministrations, so as to get them over with. He lay on the narrow bed, looking out into the hallway. He could hear them whispering. He didn’t want them to go.
They were his people.
At last, the nurse left, and they came back in the room, unnerved, it seemed.
“Dad, I think we should get going and let you rest,” she said, reaching out for his hand. The man stood smiling oddly by her side.
He didn’t want them to go. Or if they did, he wanted to go with them. He grasped her hand, his daughter’s hand, with a sudden strength. He knew, for a moment he knew, and he fought to hold onto the moment. He pulled himself up and stood, a bit shaky, but on his own feet. He leaned against her, his daughter.
“Don’t leave me here like this,” he said clearly.
This story is not completely fiction. Many of us have or had loved ones in nursing homes/elder care. I believe most of the staff in these places are compassionate, professional people who treat their clientele with dignity and respect. Yet, many individuals have been neglected, abused, or taken advantage, often not detected until it is too late.
If you have someone in a care facility, there are steps you can take. 1) Visit often; enlist friends and family to visit. 2) Get to know the staff, including cooks, janitors, and maintenance personnel, anyone who could have interaction. 3) Watch for a reaction of the individual to the staff. Even if your person is nonverbal, they can show positive or negative reactions.
OMP Admin Note: Michele Potter is a writer and OMP Network member – one of a group of networkers who will be blogging on a regular basis on various causes and issues.
Michele is an incredibly diverse and talented writer who I hope will collect her short stories and make them available on Amazon someday soon. In the meantime, her story PERCEPTIONS is available in the guest author section of the flash fiction anthology BITE SIZE STORIES VOLUME ONE.
Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.
If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.
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