(re-run from twelve and a half months ago)
Another day, and it’s another dinner with Sis in the rehab wing. Her regular table mates at dinner, Rhonda and Cecily, are the most alert residents in the dining room. One is in her 90’s, the other over 100. Cecily smiles when I wave hello. Rhonda looks startled that I am there.
I pull up the piano bench next to Sis and try to make chit chat. The two ladies don’t hear well.
“Is that your mother?” Rhonda asks again tonight.
“No, she’s my sister,” I say.
I fill the time by showing photos from my phone. Sis looks, then Cecily, but Rhonda turns away.
The young tall server comes over with soup.
”He’s a looker,” Cecily says when he leaves.
I laugh out loud. Her comment is unexpected.
“Don’t you think he’s good-looking?” she asks, surprised at my laughter.
“He’s young,” I say, “so yes.”
“Oh, I’m not interested,” Cecily says. “I think he’s handsome, though.”
The two ladies stare at Sis while she struggles to bring the spoon of soup to her lips.
Then the looker brings over the pureed spaghetti and meatballs, plus jellied water.
Rhonda and Cecily have no food yet.
“They take their sweet time,” Cecily says.
“I’ll be glad to go to bed,” says Rhonda.
I want to ask her why, but I know she won’t hear me.
“I’m cold,” Cecily says. “My hands are cold, my feet are cold, and my bottom is cold.”
It occurs to me that the woman needs her adult diaper changed. It’s too bad she has to eat dinner that way. The server brings the real food, so now I see what Sis has been eating in blob form. She cleans her plate and then eats half the applesauce.
“That’s your dessert,” I say to her.
The tall looker overhears me and comes back with pureed pineapple-upside-down cake. My sis eats the whole cup.
Rhonda and Cecily perk up when their cake is served.
“There’s no pineapple,” Cecily says.
An aide points it out to her, but it blends in with the cake.
Rhonda concurs that there is no pineapple.
“I’ll be glad to go to bed,” she says.
“I’m cold,” Cecily says,” and there’s no pineapple.”
They shake hands in agreement.
Another aide goes to the water cooler, takes off the lid, and fishes out some fresh pineapple floating on top with a plastic fork. She slices it up and brings it over to our table. She puts it on top of Cecily’s cake.
Cecily smiles and says thank you.
Then the aide does it all again and gives fresh pineapple to Rhonda.
Five minutes later, Cecily is choking on her pineapple. There’s a reason the prescribed fruit has been baked into oblivion on the cake.
Then a man with a USS Lexington hat wheels over.
“Have you seen Vivian?” he asks me.
“No,” I say. “Were you in the military?”
As he tells his story of World War II in the South Pacific, he reaches out and touches my leg. I am learning that it doesn’t always pay to chat up the residents.
I wave good bye to the two ladies and the military man. They don’t respond. I wheel Sis back to her room and once again ask the aide if she can be moved to the bed by the window. The old woman roommate has left today to go down south to live near her daughter, and I want my sis to have a view of the green outdoors instead of the brown curtain.
The CNA refers me to the nurse’s desk. The big man behind it is eating a sub sandwich. I catch him mid-bite and ask about moving Sis. He says he will get it done.
I need to go home and eat something. I change the channel to the Country Music Awards and say good-bye.
The USS Lexington guy is wheeling himself into Sis’s room.
“Is this where I bed down for the night?” he asks.
“No, not in here,” I say. “This is my sister’s room.”
“Well, where am I supposed to bed down?” he asks. “Why won’t anyone tell me?”
It would all be sad if it weren’t so funny.
It would all be funny if it weren’t so sad.
The people who work in skilled nursing facilities are some kind of angels. I will tell them that the next time I come.
“See you tomorrow,” I say to Sis after the military man leaves.
“Bye,” is all she says.
(This was last year. Things have greatly improved).