Thursday, January 12, 2012
The One That Got Away
The fact that I'm going to watch them die doesn't stop me from loving my old nursing home peeps.
In fact, the more I love an oldie, the more I want to be the one who is sitting with them when they go.
Dolly was 97 when she came to us, so knowing that our time together was likely going to be short, I fell hard and fast in love with her.
She came to us alert and oriented, walking and talking, mostly taking care of herself and damn proud of it. She made sure everyone knew how old she was;
"Can you believe I'm 97?"
"You don't look a day over 87. And you need to tell me what product you've been using on your face, 'cause I think I have more wrinkles than you."
Her magic potion turned out to be genetic, nothing but plain old Oil of Olay had ever touched her face.
Chatting like girlfriends in her bathroom as she got ready for bed, the fact that she was naked a non issue;
"You had six kids and your boobs look that good? Really? I might have to hate you for that."
They were perfect. Like her skin, far nicer than mine. Her secret? She'd always worn a bra to bed.
We had things in common. She was the mother of five daughters and a son.
"I have four sisters and a brother!"
She'd been a nurse her whole life. She gave me a scrub top she'd worn; tan with pretty embroidered flowers along the neckline. It's my favorite shirt.
And she liked her alcohol. When her daughter moved away, she appointed me her procurer of Brandy.
Every couple weeks she sidle up to me, all sneaky like, slip a $20 into my pocket and wink at me.
Entering the facility after a Dolly errand, the director of nurses stopped me in the lobby and questioned the tell tale brown paper bag;
"It's Dolly's Brandy."
"Oh isn't that nice of you."
"Meh. Just making a deposit in the Karma bank. Someone better bring me booze when I'm an old lady."
Whether she was on my assignment or not, every evening I worked, I'd bring her a Brandy on the rocks before supper.
And whether she was on my assignment or not, every evening at 7pm I'd go to her for a hug and a kiss goodnight. Sometimes she'd appear to be sleeping."
"Oh! I was just laying here, asking the Good Lord to please come and take me in my sleep."
"For you, I hope he does. For me, I hope I'm here for it."
I'd go in for my hug and get a nose full of vanilla, and Jean Nate and mouthwash.
A kiss on my cheek and "I love you."
She stayed healthy. She continued to take care of herself. She turned 98.
I'd taken a week off last summer and late one night I got a message from a nurse friend that Dolly would be gone the following day.
I thought I'd dreamed it, and went about my day. Then got a panicky feeling and checked my phone. It wasn't a dream.
I rushed into work. Was already crying when I got to Dolly's room. Handing her a plastic cup of brandy and sitting on her ottoman with my own;
"It's not supposed to end like this, I don't know how to do this."
She was ready to go though, she insisted it was time.
She'd packed up what was left of her 98 years. It sat in brown boxes at our feet.
She was going to be near her daughter. A couple hours away.
So with a hug and a kiss and a clink of blue plastic cups we said our goodbyes.
And I left her feeling I hadn't quite done my job.
I was supposed to be there til the end. Til her end.
And now I wonder. Is she gone? How did she go?
Maybe I should just remember her forever 98.
With flawless skin.
And the perkiest boobs.