THE NURSING HOME
“I am going to die soon, aren’t I?” the old lady was still holding my hand when she said it. I don’t know what to say, I cannot say that she is not going to die, if I did, I would be giving her a false hope. I cannot cry with her because that is going to make it worse. I want to say something that will make her feel better but I cannot find any words. I don’t know how it feels when one knows it’s their time. I look at her pale eyes, she smiles at me.
“You have really beautiful eyes and I like your eyebrows. Is that the recent trend, to make the eyebrows thin and neat?” she suddenly changes the topic. I smile; she smiles at me with tears still running down her cheeks. “I feel like you are an angel that God sent for me. Nobody listens to me here.” I know what she means; I have been working in this nursing home for a week and half now as an intern nurse. I really don’t have much to do so I have time to listen to her, but the other staffs are too busy to talk to her.
As a nurse I am not supposed to ask patients about their personal life, but I know she was willing to tell the stories of her life to me. She points to the drawer by her bed and signals me to open it. I open it and find a photo album inside it. I hand the album to her, she slowly opens the cover of the album and tells me to sit by her. On the first page, I see a black-and-white picture of one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen, a charming beauty with brilliant eyes. She says, “That’s me when I was twenty three, almost your age.”
I look at the picture and I look at her. Wow, people do look different when they get old; even such beauty comes to an end. Her face is covered with wrinkles, her hair is snow white, and I can see the pale green veins bulging through her skin. Her hands look thin and dry, without pulp. It feels like if I pinch her, the skin will take a few minutes to get back in place. I look at her, she is weak, shaking and she doesn’t have control over her own body.
“People said I was very pretty when I was young. I got more than five marriage proposal, some of them were very rich guys, but I ended up marrying the most caring man on this earth. We weren’t the richest but the happiest couple.” I couldn’t understand every word she said but I could clearly get the gist of her long mumble.
“Do you want to look at my wedding pictures?” she says. I smile and nod, she slowly turns the page of the album and I see her in a white wedding dress with a handsome man in a black suit. She felt the pictures with her finger as if she was trying to go back in time when she got married. I could see a smile in her face. She ran her finger over the picture of the groom and she looked up and mumbled something incoherently, as if she was speaking to someone. Then she says, “My husband left me alone here in this world five years ago. I am going to meet him soon.” Again I don’t have any words to say to her. As a nurse, I cannot sympathize her so I can only listen to her.
“Simla you are young and beautiful, you don’t know how it feels to be old and alone.” she says to me. I just listen, because I don’t know. I have always lived with my family and I am not old. I have a lot to explore in this world. I have so many things to learn and experience. I am in my youth, I get excited to talk to my boyfriend every day, and he loves me more than anything in this world. I cannot think of me without him and my family. I really don’t know how it feels to be old and alone.
I hear a knock on the door; my temporary superintendant nurse Martha summons me. I carefully unfold the old lady’s gripping fingers saying, “I will soon be back with you, I have to go now.” She smiles at me and lets me go, loosening the stiff clasp of her hand.
“The patient in room number 24 doesn’t want to take her medicine. Simla, you know her better, will you go help her?” Martha had just been hired and it was her first day at the nursing home. She really doesn’t know the patients. I go to the room, and I see this old Chinese lady crouching and crying saying she doesn’t want the medicine. I walk to her and she looks up, as soon as she sees me, she says, “I was supposed to take the medicine two hours ago, and she is trying to make me take it now, Simla, I don’t trust her.” Somehow Martha forgot to give this old lady her medicine in time.
“Do you trust me Sheryl?” I ask and she nods. Then I say, “Then you should take the medicine, trust me it will do you good.” She extends her arms to take the medicine from my hand and puts it in her mouth. “Simla, will you always give me my medicine. I really don’t trust other people here.” Martha was really surprised and embarrassed. I felt very good because even though I have been working there just for a week, I was trusted by the patient. Old people are just like little kids, they will either like you or they will hate you.
Martha thanks me for helping her. I was glad I meant so much to that old lady, Sheryl. I smiled at Martha and walked back to continue the conversation with the other old lady.
She was looking at a picture of her family with three kids in the photo album, waiting for me. As soon as she saw me she wiped her tears and made a little space on her bed for me to sit. “This was my family after ten years of our marriage, my two boys and my daughter.” They all looked young and happy, “she really had a very happy family” I think to myself.
“My kids don’t visit me anymore. They don’t care about their old momma. They are busy with their own lives.” I could see the skin of her chin move involuntarily as she said that. Her eyes usually looked dry and cloudy but they did have a lot of tears left in them, waiting for the right moment to come out. I feel sorry for her but I cannot express it to her.
“I hope my kids will do my funeral as I want them to.” I was surprised that she has already planned for her funeral. I never thought a person actually gets ready to die. People really do accept their final destination. The death is invincible, whether you accept it or not, it is going to get you. I have never seen a person die, nobody very close to me has died yet. I don’t know how it feels when a loved one dies. I get scared of the thought and try to deviate my mind from it.
“It’s time for you to sleep, you need some rest now. I will talk to you tomorrow, okay?” I try to put her to bed as it was late. It is time that I prepare my final log of the day, organize the files and leave for home. “I wanted to talk about so many things to you today, but I guess I will go to bed. Thank you for listening to me. You really are an angel,” she said.
Knock, knock. I move my eyes away from her. Martha is standing at the door and I know she needs my help. I say the old lady goodnight and walk out of the door. “Simla, come to room number 12.” Martha says and hurries towards the room. I can see some people at the door. I follow Martha towards the room. I see some people crowded in front of the door. One of the old patients who had been living in the nursing home for a few years just died.
This was the old lady who cared about me a lot. She used to lead me to my office because she thought I would get lost in the hallway as I was new to the nursing home. Old people suffer from memory loss and dyslexia and they often get lost in the hallway. She thought the hallway is confusing for all and wanted to make sure I could find my way back to the office.
I can’t believe a person who I put to sleep a few hours ago is no more in this world. Some of her relatives were here, some of them were really sad by her death and some of them looked like they expected it. The staffs of the nursing home were taking her body out of the room. “I will never see her in that room again.” I think to myself.
This nursing home is a long term care unit. People live here, they come here to spend the last few years of their lives. I think about these people who I nurse, most of them are over seventy, some of them are weak by age, some of them have stroke, some of them have asthma, some of them Parkinson’s disease. Some of them cannot even speak or move, they just smile to show their approval for something. Some of them can hear us, but cannot speak back.
Most of the patients I nurse have their pictures of their youth hanging in their walls. I look at the pictures and look at them on their bed, age do make people weak. All of them were really healthy and fit in their youth. Some of them were really wealthy and powerful. Some of them have given their properties to charity. Some of their children really love them and visit them often. Some of them have a TV, fridge, microwave and all necessary equipments in their room. Some of them only have a bed and are never visited by their relatives. Beauty, youth, wealth, power don’t matter to them now as they know that they will all die alike; taking nothing with them, not even their body. I figured out that all these patients need one thing till the end of their life, and that is love and care.
Even though I am a nursing student, I had never seen anybody die before. This old lady was the closest person to me that died in front of me. I am shocked by her death; I can’t believe a person who was breathing just a few minutes ago is no more. I think about her, I think about the old lady I just talked to and I think about myself. I collect the file of the dead old lady and give it to Martha. I was still nervous when Martha says, “Simla, thanks for helping me out today, I don’t know what I would do without you here. It’s time you go home, it’s almost eleven.”
I couldn’t find a parking spot near the building when I came in today so I parked it at the farthest end of the parking lot. When I walked out of the building there were no cars left. I could see my car shining at the other end of the parking lot in the dark. I walk to it, I usually don’t fear darkness, but the dark night was haunting me today. I turn my phone on, set my eyes on it and run towards my car. I sit in the driver’s seat and try to start it. My car is reluctant to start immediately, but it finally clicks. I have to back my car to get out of my parking lot. I try to look behind but I feel like the old lady who just died is sitting on the back seat of my car. I cannot look back; I back my car without looking and speed it towards the bright light of the street where the darkness couldn’t haunt me.
Last edited: 24-Sep-09 08:23 AM