Page 70 - Vol. VII #8
P. 70

 The Evening of His Last Visit
Winnie: By the time I got to the hospital, I thought I’d just about die from the pain. It was a mistake not to accept Pete’s offer to drive me. “A woman your age has no business up on a ladder,” he told me as I lay sprawled on the pavement, my left arm twisted as all get out. I told him he could keep his ride and his opinions to himself. I drove one-handed to the hospi- tal alone.
I remember it was 5:00 p.m. exactly because I was looking at the clock when the hollering began. The curtains to one of the cubicles flew open, and I could see the old man, Frank, thrashing on his bed. His wife pinned him down to stop him from sliding off.
Naturally, the emergency room was jammed. They made me wait for triage right there in the lobby. I took the last seat but didn’t sit for long because there was a trail of wet blood running from my chair into the hallway. The first thing I thought was AIDS. I jumped up without thinking, and the sudden pain in my wrist nearly sent me through the ceiling.
A nurse at the central station looked up and said, “We’ll be with you in a minute.”
So I stood leaning against the wall when in comes a man on a gurney, must have been at least 80, his body shaking and his eyes rolling up so all you could see was the whites. Running alongside was his wife. He was pleading, “Don’t leave me, Clare.”
He was about to fall clear onto the floor when the nurse sauntered over and said, “Now, Frank, what seems to be the problem?”
She held his hand and shouted in his ear, “Hang on, Frank, you’re almost there.”
One of the doctors grabbed Frank’s chart and scrib- bled furiously as he yelled for medication. A nurse disappeared into a supply room and came out a few seconds later knocking bubbles out of a large hypo- dermic. Two orderlies appeared out of nowhere to hold Frank down while Clare bent over her husband’s face and said, “There, there.” The nurse jammed the needle into his backside. Within a minute, he was quiet again.
Him, they admitted right away, which I could under- stand even though he wasn’t that much older than me. When I finally got my turn in the tiny examining room, Little Nurse Triage told me to have a seat in the waiting room. She pointed to a doorway down the hall. I guess she thought that was progress.
Clare kept stroking Frank’s face. “He’s soiled himself again,” she said.
The TV in the waiting room was set to one of those horrible afternoon talk shows. I tried to follow
the conversation to take my mind off the pain, but the language! I’d stopped watching daytime TV years ago when they put all that sex in it. Don’t get me wrong. I always liked men and all. Why, just
last week Pete asked me to the Seaview Diner. I would’ve gone, too, except I don’t think it’s proper to date someone whose wife’s been dead less than a year. By the time my name was called, my arm had swollen like a Ball Park frank. I don’t know how I made it to the actual emergency room with- out passing out. The room was one big open space with a huge circular desk in the middle surrounded by what passed for cubicles. There were hanging curtains you could pull shut, if you call that privacy. So this is what Medicare paid for—hard plastic chairs, a couple of overworked doctors, and your pain on view for everyone to see.
Without a word, the nurse handed her one of those disposable bed pads. Clare turned Frank sideways, pulled out the filthy pad, and slipped the clean one underneath him. That was something, I thought, one person loving another like that. She reminded me
At last, it was my turn. After all that waiting, it took inside of sixty seconds for the doctor to get me on my way to X-ray, all to find out I had a broken wrist.
“I need help,”she called. “He’s soiled himself.”
The poor man kept at it. Diarrhea ran down the sheet and onto the floor. Frank started to cry. His wife pat- ted his face and said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll take care of it.’
“Get the hell out!” Frank screamed at the top of his lungs. And then he uttered a stream of obscenities that wouldn’t be fit for a lady like me to repeat.
of how Pete was when Linda was so sick last year. He’d take her out in her wheelchair and show her the leaves turning and the mums blooming and the sea gulls squawking. She’d sit there with that smile on her face not saying anything because the stroke had left her speechless.It wasn’t too long after that she was dead.
cynThia Reeves

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