Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Reporting from the Universe Next Door

As is always the case when something overwhelms me, I have to process it in small chunks, like a basset hound pondering each bite of kibble. The following chunks (over the next week) are in no particular order, except for the first one.


My niece Michele picks me up at the Indianapolis airport. It's gray and gloomy and snowing. By the time we get to the nursing home, it's completely dark outside. I try to make some kind of mental adjustment, to brace myself to see Dad in this place for the first time. Nothing comes.

When Michele and I go inside, my mom and sister are coaxing Dad to walk down the hallway with his walker. He is wearing an electric-blue sweatshirt. My sister says "Look! Candy's here!" and Dad gives me that wide-eyed look that is half curious, half blank. I say "Hi, Freddie," and hug him. (My siblings and I have called him Freddie, a nickname, for as long as I can remember.)

There are hugs all around. I am here, in a new world. I started out this morning in blazing Phoenix sunshine and am ending the day in skin-burning Indiana cold. And I am visiting my dad in a nursing home. I repeat it in my head to try to emotionally recalibrate. This is a place of long, carpetless hallways, and doors to little sub-worlds of suffering or sleeping or chatting visitors or blaring TVs. All saturated in the non-warmth of endless fluorescent lights.



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The nursing home (I'll call it Shiny Meadows) has two wings: Rehab and Long Term.

The patients in Rehab are a mixture of 3 groups:

1) The elderly who are here temporarily recuperating from an injury or surgery. A broken ankle; a knee replacement.

2) The elderly who are here for good, but who are, for the time being, receiving physical therapy to improve their mobility. My dad is in this category.

3) The confusing (to me) group who seem to belong in Long Term. They are definitely not ever going home, and are way past therapy. The rules are fuzzy as to who stays in Rehab and who goes over there.

Long Term

Not only is it the older, way more dreary part of Shiny Meadows, but it is populated with those residents who can only be described as Far Gone. Putting Dad into Shiny Meadows was horrible enough for Mom, but she really didn't want him in Long Term. That's where, she says, "they just park the poor old things out in the hall and let them sit there with their heads drooping." It's what you picture when you think of nursing homes in their worst light. Not quite alive and not quite dead, Mom says. Just lingering.

4 Comments:

  • At 10:01 PM, Anonymous mle said…

    Hi Candy,

    I was trying to remember if you came with me to see my mom in her nursing home. I know you were there when she passed away and I went to to clear out her stuff - couldn't have done it without you.. My memories of that time are so sad and I know what you are going though. Let me know if you need to talk - I've been there... and will always be here for you. My thoughts to your family.
    MLE

     
  • At 10:22 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    MLE, no, I didn't get to meet her. But I remember lots of small details from that day when we packed up her things.

    Today I was thinking: I have to think of other people who have been through this with a parent, and you're the one I thought of.

    Thanks.

     
  • At 4:51 PM, Blogger Citlali said…

    "Freddie". I love that. It's unimaginable -- that cold, morbid world. Nevertheless, I'm sure glad you got to go. I've also always been of the belief that even if someone doesn't seem to know that you're there, it matters that you are. You know? It's the connection, the contact, the love; it gets through.
    Big hugs for all of you. = ]

     
  • At 10:53 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Citlali,
    Yeah, I do think it matters to him that we're there. I've gotten addicted to the place now, and hate to think of going home.

    Thanks for the hugs. They got here.

    :)

     

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