Visiting my dad in the Hospice

On the sixteenth floor they let us die.  I guess it doesn’t cost all that much to let us die.  On the other floors we really can’t afford to live.  Five to six thousand dollars a month for the other floors.  Apartments with views of the river or the city skyline.  A cafeteria with steak tartar or minestrone soup and chocolate cake and apple pie.  Nurses and home attendants on call 24/7.  Concierge in the lobby.  Social hours with drinks.

My father thinks there are too many old people in this building. I was hoping that when the EMT folks brought him into the building, the old people would be busy doing old people stuff.  But no such luck.  It was like an old people convention in the lobby when we entered the building.  Why should I live in a building with so many old people he wants to ask, but doesn’t out loud.  Or maybe he is thinking that all these old people will live longer than him in the end.  What a thought to think, that all the old people in the world will live longer than you in the end.

The nurses were thrilled to discover he is West-Indian.  It took them a while to find out exactly what kind, but once it was confirmed he was one of them, in a way, they smiled with a different smile than they had when they first saw him.  One of their own they can tend to in his dying.  They joke with him about what they thought he was at first.  Trinidadian for sure, one said, yes, yes, we all thought Trinidad.  My aunt corrects them… Jamaica.  One nurse gets thrown off when she sees the picture of his mom.  What kind of Jamaican is that, she wants to say.  It takes everything in me to not say… Jamaican by way of Kansas, White-Kansas-U.S.A.

They try to joke with dad, but he doesn’t really joke back.  He also doesn’t smile for them either.  Sometimes he just stares through them to see what is on the inside of the shadow talking to him.  Once he is sure, if he is ever really sure, that they are not one of the many ghosts who visit him, he tries to determine what they are about.  The gift he has for seeing people clearly has not faded away simply because his body is dying.  I am not sure what he had learned about these women who tend to him, but whatever it is, it has not caused him to tell any of his dry jokes or to ask them about their day or about their lives or to simply smile back when they smile at him and try to make him laugh.

His legs are no longer working.  His walking days are gone.  When he first got there, they tried to help him stand, but he was too scared to even try.  That was just a few days ago.  Now they don’t even look like human legs, but more like the legs of a marionette.  A marionette without the strings.  He asks me to move them every ten minutes or so unless I am sleeping, then he asks me every twenty minutes or so.  He says they are numb.  Then he says they are in pain.  He says they feel like blubber.  Then he says they feel like nothing at all.  Then he says he feels nothing.  And one night he said, more to himself, than to me…. I will never walk again.

On a night when he was lucid, not talking to the dead, he and I watched the Yankee game on the small TV on the wall.  He cannot see all that well, on account of the glaucoma and now he is somewhat blind, so he kept asking me questions about the game.  He also had his headphone on, as he always does, and was listening to Yankees radio.  Play by play he followed the Yankees as Evan Longoria, the Yankee Killer, tore our team apart.  And when the voices of the dead interfered with the voices of the announcers, he looked to me for clarification on a play.  At one point he said that it is time to take the pitcher out the game and within minutes, the manager came out and did just that.

Once the game was over, he asked me if I ever played baseball.  I told him it had always been soccer for me except when I was a kid in Jamaica playing cricket and even then, we only played cricket in-between soccer games.    He then looked at his dead legs, and then at me, and said, with a straight face, and only a hint of a smile on his lips, “Maybe tomorrow if it’s nice, we can go out and play ball.”

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