It’s my sister’s second day of rehab after a one-week hospital stay, and I need to vent about the woman in the next bed. Actually, about her family. She has had a medical event that has changed her life. She is moving to a new place closer to one of her daughters. I found this out because six people descended upon the roommate today with lunch in tow. They proceeded to talk in loud voices about how she needs to get rid of her clutter.
The movers are coming tomorrow, Mom.
You can’t take it all with you, Mom.
It’s just clutter, Mom.
It’s just the woman’s entire life.
She didn’t have time to downsize. She had a blood clot or something. The curtain is thin. Their voices are loud.
My sister doesn’t complain. But I am appalled at how little regard this family has for the mother, her roommate, or me, the other family.
What about your shoes, Mom? Can we donate the old ones? How about the towels? You don’t need that many.
What about the pictures? Which ones do you want?
It hurts to listen. There is no way not to hear it.
How about Dad’s ashes? We never did scatter them over the ocean.
We can dump them now, someone says.
I think that’s illegal, someone else says.
I am fuming in my chair.
I take my sister for a stroll in her wheelchair to get out of there for a while. I put my bag on the chair by her bed. If I don’t, the chair will be dragged to the other side of the curtain by the time I come back.
We return, and the nurse gets Sis settled back into bed. The curtain stays pulled. My sister has the bed by the door to the hallway. The other woman has the lovely picture window with a view of the garden.
These women are younger, professionals. They surround the nurse and challenge the doctor’s orders.
I leave at two and am back by six. The relentless grilling has stopped for a while. They have all gone to the house to pack, except for one older woman.
I can’t spend all day. Mom. I have to drive back tomorrow, Mom. No, I’m not angry, Mom, just tired. There are only so many hours in a day, Mom.
There are only so many moms in a lifetime, Daughter.
Now they are Facetiming their mom and hold things in front of the webcam, asking if she wants them or not.
The soft-spoken lady in the next bed is weeping. This is too much for her all at once, plus she is recovering from something serious.
Then I hear the son’s voice through the computer.
Don’t worry, Mom. Keep whatever you want, Mom. I will personally drive it down to you once you get settled in.
Thank God for the good son.
I turn up the TV and place the speaker closer to my sister’s ear. She is hard of hearing.
Excuse me, the designated keep-Mom-company-while-we-pack relative says through the curtain.
What is the woman going to do? Complain that we are making too much noise with the Fixer Upper show?
My sister can’t hear the TV, I say. I am adjusting her speaker.
At least we aren’t making an old woman cry as her children dismantle her life as she knows it.
My own mother moved three times in one year. Each move resulted in downsizing, and five of us children claiming things before they got tossed by another sibling. It is painful. It signals that the end of life is coming.
The woman in the next bed will move far away in a few days. Then Sis will get a new roommate, hopefully with fewer visiting relatives.
Oh well, it could’ve been worse. She could have gotten the woman across the hall, the one that yells help me for hours on end.
Rehab ain’t for sissies, or their visiting family members.