Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Residents

I know almost all of them now. (At least the ones in the Rehab wing. The Long Term half of the building is a netherworld I can't take in just yet.)

I'll start introducing you.

Before I got to Indiana, my sister said "Candy, you have GOT to meet George." She described him as a very "colorful" old guy who lived in the room two doors down from Dad. He was, in fact, initially going to be Dad's roommate. But a friend of our family's who works at Shiny Meadows steered Dad's assignment to a different room. Because George likes to get into other people's stuff. All the time. He sits in his wheelchair and "walks" himself in and out of rooms and rearranges things and/or runs off with small treasures like combs and candies and anything not nailed down.

He weighs 80 pounds at most, with skinny little ankles the circumference of a boiled egg. He has no teeth, and used to like to scoot around Shiny Meadows with his harmonica in his pocket, occasionally serenading residents with religious songs. And always playing "Happy Birthday" when appropriate.

My sister said that every so often you could hear a resident or their visitor yelling "Get outta here, George!" It became the one comic relief for her and my mom during that first sickening day. George didn't seem to mind being yelled at. He just moved along to the next pilfering spot, like a wren looking for aluminum Doublemint wrappers.

So I was anxious to meet him, thinking about how I would lay bait out for him and delight in watching him take it. I packed some beanie babies to entice him with. I would buy a bag of marshmallows. I could fatten him up.

You know how life is fleeting? Wow. Way more fleeting in a nursing home. By the time I got to Indiana on Wednesday, George was too sick to get out of bed. He died yesterday.

As it turns out, his nephew, Steve, is a man who used to work for my dad in the sixties as a hired hand on the farm. I was fascinated with him because he ate frog legs for lunch every day. He told me that a few weeks ago, George's harmonica went missing, "as many things do here," and that had been George's "clutch." His meaning. He went downhill from there. Again, there it is. The small things.


  • At 2:10 PM, Blogger Citlali said…

    "Fatten him up". I love the image you put in my mind of the mostly-harmless clepto, skinny like an alley cat. Reminds me of the cat in the movie Bolt I got to see this weekend. Wonderful characters. So very sad that George died. I really wonder who got his harmonica. Maybe it was taken as payment for some "missing" item by one of the residents OR maybe someone liked him enough to miss him and want a souvenir despite his mischievousness? Looks like he had a method to his madness, keeping his life interesting up to the very last moment; his way of connecting, no? ::sigh::
    hugs. = ]

  • At 3:49 PM, Blogger Jerry said…

    Their is very little about our final days that I find comforting. It is a deeply disturbing experience that causes us to create positive fantasies - scenarios in which our loved one finds peace and we find closure.

    In my mothers last days, as she lay dying - struggling to breathe, I said my goodbyes...searching to find something to say that had meaning for her and for me.

    I said, "mom, I'm not sure about where you are going, but I know that Daddy is there and I will be there soon to join you. Make some chicken and dumplings for me, because I know I won't have any worth eating til I see you again."

    I know it sounds corny, and that there is nothing spiritually auspicious about what I said. But my mother smiled and I knew it made her happy to think that I would be looking forward to one of my favorite dishes and she would be the one to make it for me.

    I really don't know where I will wind up, but if I can't see my daddy again...I'm not interested in going there.

  • At 8:19 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    I need to see "Bolt," Citlali. I need a comedy! I keep waiting for George's obituary to show up in the paper so I can see something about his past.

  • At 8:23 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Jerry, nothing that you wrote sounded corny. It was amazing. Thank you so much for writing it. The chicken and dumplings story is beautiful. It sounds like you chose just the right thing to say to your mom. You were speaking pure love to her. The right stuff does sometimes come out of our mouths when the source is so right, you know?

  • At 12:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Everything said here today is beautiful and thought-provoking.

    Per my experience with my little old mama, one is certainly drawn in to the everyday lives of our loved one and the other residents.

    My mother is gone. I often wonder about the others.


  • At 9:48 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Mad, I'm sorry your mom is gone. There's no way to prepare for that kind of loss. Thanks for commenting about how you, too, felt the need to know the other residents.


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