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Author Topic: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff  (Read 5215 times)

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Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« on: January 22, 2016, 12:54:00 PM »

Content Warning: This is a blog that is largely about end-of-life care, dementia, progressive illness, the medical field, and mushrooms.  Sorry about the mushrooms.  Comments and discussion are welcome, preferably via PMs.

“I don’t have my ticket.”

noun, plural frissons [free-sohnz; French free-sawn]
a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder or shiver of emotion
see also: heebie jeebies

Five seconds prior to that moment, I had been alone in the room and because I am genetically incapable of proportional reactions, I had come to a fork where the roads were named hysterical screaming and stony silence - I naturally picked the latter, but had given serious thought to the former.  When I turned around, she was looking at me, but only technically - she was looking at me the way people try to look through windows when the sun is at its glaring peak: there was something on the other side that she wanted to see.  I moved out of the way.

“I don’t have my ticket.” she repeated, and I stood beside her.  She was a full foot shorter than me.  Over the last few years of her life, she had begun to curl progressively inwards, stooping, getting smaller and more compact.  When my great-aunt had begun to shrink this way, she had said she was simply becoming a more concentrated form of wisdom, an oma tincture.

“Where did you leave it?” I asked.  I was new to this.  I was twenty-three and still in school, this was my first night watch and I had been left alone.  It was just me and my Star Trek scrub top - on it, there was a print of Jim Kirk striking a Bond Girl pose, a phaser in his hand, a speech bubble beside his head states: Shut up, you whimpering fool -- and listen to me! We have only one chance to get out of this alive!  Behind him, Dr. Bones looks exasperated.  I was not known for my fashion sense.

“I don’t know.”

“We’ll get you a new ticket.”

She shook her head, starting small, then progressing into a full hair metal swing.

“No, it’s too late, I’m going to miss this one.” she said.

You wait for the bus, you wait for the train, you wait for the plane.  The theme was common, they had somewhere they were trying to get to, a vehicle they were trying to get on, a trip they had been looking forward to or were anxious to go on, or thought they had missed.  Whatever the details of it were, they knew they had to get there one way or another.  Typically something is in the way of letting the transition be smooth.  You forget your ticket, you didn’t update your passport, you forgot to turn off the stove, you didn’t say goodbye to the dog.  After weeks or months of being inert they will launch out of their bed or out of their wheelchair or out of their catatonia and make a mad dash or a furious shuffle or a determined crawl to their goal, they will remember they must go on this trip but they will forget their slippers, their glasses, their teeth.  Those things are not important, there is suddenly only the transit.

Cold is the absence of heat but if a person was capable of producing cold, she was doing it - like opening a freezer, it came off of her in waves.  I took her hand.  We walked together down the hall. 

“I can’t believe I don’t have my ticket.” she said.

“That sucks.” I was also not well-known for being articulate.

It was mid-summer and it was the kind of midnight hot where you can tell even from inside that tomorrow was going to be brutal.  The hallways were dimmed but a fat white moon was up in the flat black of the sky and it brought light in through the windows.

“I was going to see my dad.” she added.  She was in her nineties.  I turned on the light in her room to make the walk easier.  Her roommate swore on reflex. “I was ready to see my dad.”

I closed the curtains in her room.  I am not superstitious but I believed the moon confused people in her position and I still do, I don’t have an explanation as to why, but I tell myself there is probably some involved scientific reason.  The word lunacy has its roots for a reason, right? 

Narwhals, I tell myself.  I don’t know why this is, but when I cannot explain something, I tell myself it must be because of Narwhals.  Confusion because Narwhals. 

“I wanted to see my dad.” she said as she got back into bed.

“Soon.” I said, and pulled her quilt over her.  She laid there under the fluorescents for a few minutes, then she looked at me for the first time that night, really looked at me, her eyes gaining a focus she hadn’t had in days.  She gestured at me, crooking a finger until I approached.  I stood beside her bed.  This felt like a Mr. Miyagi moment.  She was about to impart some wisdom.

She hooked her finger under the hem of my shirt and pulled the fabric taut for a moment, her expression studious. 

“Shut up you whimpering fool.” she quoted.  I looked down.  Captain Kirk looked back at us.  She released my shirt, laying back in bed, “Shut up you whimpering fool.”
She made a noise like rattling coins and I realized she was laughing.

“Shut up you whimpering fool.” she said again, and smiled, “I’ll go see dad tomorrow.”

“You can go see him tomorrow.” I agreed.

“Your shirt is stupid.” she said.


« Last Edit: January 24, 2016, 07:10:40 PM by Sevenpercentsolution »

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2016, 09:16:36 PM »

I was full of fish masala and red wine, my stomach was buzzing with warmth, on the other side of the room there was a queer performance event, a person with purple hair does poetry slam.  We belong here, drunk and gay.  There is a green tea in my hands and my best friend, slightly to my left, is throwing me under the bus again.  It's not entirely his fault, but people are drawn to him like moths around bright lights, they come to his glow and want to open up to him.

She is older, she has been coughing into the same tissue for the last twenty minutes, pausing at intervals to spit loudly into it, letting a stretch of sinus contents drop into the napkin before beginning the process of coughing again.  She takes a drink of her tea.  She sees she has left a ring of it on the table, so she uses her booger napkin to wipe it up.  She had been speaking to my friend for a few minutes and he has grown tired of it.

"My friend works in health care." he says.  He has done this before.  I look up from my texts at the wrong time, eye contact is made.  My friend sinks comfortably back into his seat, the woman asks me something but my profound hearing loss means I have to approach her to properly hear her.  I accept my fate, I cross the cafe and sit directly beside her. 

"Sorry?" I ask.

"What does this look like to you?" she asks, and yanks up her pant leg.  Best friend cannot keep the alarm off his face.

"Hnn." I say, because I was not prepared for this.  Her leg is covered with pits and scabs in varying shades of purple and green, "That's infected."

She looks down.  She looks up.  She looks startled.

"What's that mean?" she asked, "Is that bad?"

"Infected is bad." I agree, "Do you have Diabetes?"

I ask only as a formality.  She has Diabetes.  Even if she hasn't been diagnosed, she has diabetes, I know the smell: acrid like nail polish remover with an undertone of soured sweetness, like rotten fruit.

"I don't know." she says, "My mom had Diabetes.  Should I pour alcohol on it?"

"Don't do that." I say.

"Why not?"

"That's just a bad idea.  Go to a doctor."

"But why not alcohol?"

"Because it'll dry it out.  Just go to the doctor."

"And say what?"

"Pull up your pant leg."

"But what do I say?"

"Just pull up your pant leg." I insist.

"I didn't always have this." she says, and I wish she would cover her leg.

"When did it start?" I ask, as you do.

"When my husband died." she says.  I feel like a turd.  Everyone has a story that will break your heart, it's just what happens.  I am not obligated to listen to her, but I stay anyways.  I have been through this before, I know that if she is telling me this, she needs to tell someone.  It may as well be me.

"Are you depressed?" I ask.

"What's depressed?  Is that like sad?"

"It's like sad."

"I think I'm depressed." she said, "My landlord wants to evict me."

I consider this for a moment.

"Have you been hoarding?" I ask.  Her eyes shift like someone certain they are being watched.

"What's hoarding?" she asks, "Is that like keeping too much stuff?"

"It's like keeping too much stuff." I say.

"I'm keeping too much stuff." she agrees, "If I don't get rid of some stuff I can't keep my place."

"You should get rid of some stuff." Best Friend pipes in.  Thanks best friend.  Thank you.  Thank u

"Easier said than done, right?" I ask the woman, because she looks briefly tormented, "You should see a doctor."

"For this?" she asks, reaching for her pants.

"I've seen the leg." I say, holding my hands up.  She stops.  I am grateful.  I am not inclined to queasiness but I have had a lot of curry.  Cod sits high in my throat. 

"The beer here tastes funny." she says.

"It's craft." I say.

"What's craft?" she asks.

"Kind of gross." I say, and she nods.  On this we agree.  She goes to the bathroom and coughs for a while.  On her way out, she waves at me.  I turn and look at my best friend and he looks into his tea, pretending he is innocent in this turn of events.  I return to my original seat, I return to my green tea, but all I can smell now is diabetes.

There is a shelf full of board games, but only Jenga is available for two people.  He opens it.  We stare at the contents.  The label says extreme jenga and the pieces are all angled - we are too drunk to figure this out.

"Even the board games here aren't straight." he says, and we put it away. 
« Last Edit: January 22, 2016, 09:19:25 PM by Sevenpercentsolution »

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2016, 10:09:33 PM »

I did not feel right.  For three days I hadn't slept much but on the fourth day I experienced the kind of sleep where you are not entirely certain if you've slept at all.  You close your eyes at 11:00 and open them at 11:20 - time has passed and you can't recall it going by, but you aren't sure you slept those twenty minutes either.

At 4:30 I am on my feet because my alarm has gone off.  I shower.  I fill my thermos with coffee.  I go through the motions vaguely aware something is not right.  I am viewing the world like I am looking through a fishbowl - everything is bending outwards, slightly warped, but somehow I convince myself this is normal. 

"I feel strange." I say.  My voice sounds like it's coming from the other side of a wall.  My wife peers at me, but she is too tired.  It is 4:30 in the morning.  Everyone feels strange at 4:30 in the morning.

I sit in for the work update and I can't absorb any of it.  When I look at my co-workers, they are surrounded in brightness, as though someone has built neon lights in the precise shape of their silhouettes.  When I turn my head, everything pulses.  I go to the bathroom and splash water on my face, my stomach flutters like it has briefly mistaken itself for an eye and is trying to blink away a bit of dust. 

I walk down the hall, it pulses around me.  I am standing in the burning building of my body and I tell myself: this is fine.  I reach the cart full of equipment.  I move to pick something up, but my arms stretch away from me, my hands are not obeying and look as though they are miles away.  My teeth are buzzing. 

When I blink I am on the floor, in the arms of my panicking co-worker, who has begun to shout for someone.  I am aware of being held up on my knees, limp in her arms, and the stupid part is that I try to tell her I am okay.  I can't move and my tongue feels like it's five times too big for my mouth: this is fine.  My eyes keep pulling to the right and when the nurse crouches down, she is speaking to me and I want to reply, but I can't even get my eyes to move.  She touches my face.

"This is weird." she says.

I want to agree with her.  Yes.  This is fucking weird.

A thousand insects crawl through me.  Every part of my body clamps down, pulls inwards like I am trying to turn myself inside-out from a point in the centre of my body.  My co-worker drops me from the sheer force of the way my body spasms. 

I blink and I am looking at the ceiling.  A semi-circle of people look down at me, their faces like cubism paintings, their features disjointed.  My hands are clenching and unclenching rhythmically, there is blood in my mouth, gouges in my tongue where my molars opened it up. 

"Do you know where you are?"

The voice floats in from far away.  Their faces sort themselves out.  I recognize them, my co-workers, all of them are standing above me.

"On the floor." I say.  There are one or two smiles, the rest aren't sure if I meant to be funny.  I did.  I was.  I am.  I swear I'm funny.  Can everyone please laugh. 

"She's not wrong." says the nurse.  I try to refuse the wheelchair, the assistance, the looks of concern.  I tell them I can walk but I can't.  I tell them I can cross the street but my feet don't want to work.  I don't remember the ride home, most of the morning, or what really happened. 

The next time I am at work, my co-worker is flicking the light on and off to get someone's attention.

"Careful." I say, "You might give me a seizure."

She gives me a look of utter panic.  I smile.  She hesitates, smiles back.  I work with good people.  This is fine.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2016, 06:43:13 PM by Sevenpercentsolution »

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2016, 07:01:37 PM »

My grandmother was dying.  Somehow I was the only person unsurprised by this.  She was eighty-four and it seemed logical that eventually she would die but the rest of them did not see it this way.  I often find myself in this position with my family, no matter the subject, I am simply taking what they deem the incorrect view.  In their eyes, I should have refused to acknowledge her mortality, viewed it as a medical error - she was not dying, could not be dying, would not die.

But she had been actively dying for years now, kept alive via regular cleansing of her idle kidneys - they were unreliable boarders, taking up tenancy in her body and refusing to pay rent, letting the filth accumulate until the fire department is called on them, forcing them to regularly purge their hoarding.  She hated dialysis.  She was pragmatic and she hated the travel, the needles, the fuss.  She hated how exhausted she was and that her body was failing her, that she required machines to make it keep working.  She was tired of the walkers and the wheelchairs, the way she couldn't leave the facility on her own, and the food.  The food was the biggest problem.

"They feed me this." she said. 

I sat beside her bed and examined her plate.  It was divided into three separate compartments and each one was filled with a different paste, the only discernable difference was what shade of brown it was.  There was brown paste, tan paste, and taupe paste.  Sometimes there would be a pink paste.  She hated the pink paste especially.

"What is it?" I asked, and she looked at it for a while, then shrugged.  She set it aside.

"I don't want to do this anymore." she said.  It was my rotation, sitting in her room with her that day, and the first time in a very long time that it had been just the two of us.

 As a child, she had babysat me and we would sit up long past my bed time and watch The Red Green Show and Royal Canadian Air Farce and say nothing.  I can recall a time, only once prior to that, when she and I had actually spoken, not long after her husband had died.  In a rare moment of frankness, she said:

"I was not a very good mother."

I was thirteen when she told me that, and had been raised in a family that did not discuss their feelings.  I was taken aback by this, but not because it was surprising, only because that level of exposure was unheard of.  Knowing my mother as she was, I had already deduced that my grandmother had not been very good at it.  She cried after she told me this and I could not think of what to do, so we simply sat there on a park bench and stared at the lake. 

I was nineteen when she was dying and I was still the person who had no idea what to say, but remained unruffled by the words themselves. 

"They want me to keep doing it." she said, then picked up the plate again, and I understood what she meant.  She held the plate as evidence: this is what my life has become, varying shades of brown paste, a plastic spoon, a bed and a call bell, a locked door and needles.  Chronic illness and all of these factors do not denote that one cannot have a thriving and enjoyable life, but she no longer desired to keep going.  In light of that fact, it made everything else seem bleak for her. 

My grandmother was a hard woman who'd had a hard life, raised by hard people.  She was a mean woman and I state this not to be cruel, but only because it was the truth - she often lost her temper, she would say the worst things at the worst possible time, she would unthinkingly insult people, draw attention to their shortcomings in public places, it never occurred to her to thank someone, and she certainly never apologized.  The man she had married had been her polar opposite and he had softened her, so it stood to reason that when he passed, her edges sharpened once more.  This was simply how she was. 

The fact that she kept going, kept living out of obligation to her family, was a kind of selflessness that showed who she could be in spite of all her hardness and meanness. 

"I just want a drink." she said.

A few days later the home called us.

"She's gone." they said. 

What they meant was that she was not in her room.  She had been bed-bound or wheelchair bound for months now and during a shift rotation a nurse had entered her room and discovered she was gone.  My family tried to figure out what had happened.  Had someone taken her out and forgotten to sign off?  Had she wandered somewhere and gotten lost?  Was she somewhere in the facility visiting someone else?  Had she been kidnapped?

An hour later, a place around the corner called:

"We think one of your patients is here." they said.

The nurse found my grandmother eating a hamburger, french fries, and having a gin and tonic at the bar.  With mustard on her chin and shirt, she looked proud of herself and characteristically did not apologize.  My family was furious. 

"She wanted a drink." I said.  I was also proud of her.

Not long after, she announced she would not go for dialysis again.  Not ever again, she said.  When the nurses explained that this would kill her, she shrugged.  She would not eat the paste. 

In her last days, she continued to refuse the dialysis, the paste, the vitamin drinks.  She would take water, she would have pudding so she wouldn't ache with hunger, but soon the feelings of hunger went away, the morphine increased to keep her comfortable.  I sat beside her during my rotation when she went into a coma and she would frown when the wrong kind of music played on my MP3 player.  She died not long after, a single missed session of dialysis was all it took, evidence of how delicate her body had become, and a week later she was gone, peaceful, and by her own choice. 

She was cremated.  I was the one who placed her urn in the same mausoleum niche as my grandfather, and when it was unlocked, I was greeted by his gold nameplate.  I am not a sentimental person, but I touched his urn, acknowledging this was the last time I would see him, and placed them side by side.  I have no idea what happens after, but if there is something more, I hoped that his softness would be there once more for her edges.   
« Last Edit: January 24, 2016, 07:02:50 PM by Sevenpercentsolution »

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2016, 02:24:09 PM »

"Are you a boy or a girl?"

He has not put his teeth in and over the years his features have seemed to draw inwards to some central point, as though all of it is trying to get as close to his nose as possible and the result is that he looks overwhelmingly like one of the California Raisins.  His eyebrows hang heavy and dig inwards, creating trenches in the war zone of his face and his eyes never seem to open fully, but he has been watching me for some time.

I am putting out his clothes for tomorrow.  It is close to midnight and he is in the minority that will remain awake most of the night - he will watch the television, he will watch the ceiling, he will watch me.  He is watching me.  I try not to look at the pictures on his bedside table, but my eyes will be drawn to them again and again - in them, he is young, he looks at something out of frame and leans back against a jalopy.  In another, his arm is around his late wife, though she is young in the picture, wide-eyed with her hair set in curls.  One more and he looks directly into the camera, startlingly handsome, a cheeky smile on his face as though he is in on a joke.  I look at these pictures every time, though I do not want to, because in this last one he wears a swastika.

He speaks well, lightly-accented, he is polite and often curious, he flirts outrageously with any girl he sees, frequently asking them to marry him: "I would be willing to take a third wife".  He has asked me many times but since I have cut my hair off, he does not know who I am.  This happens from time to time when working around people with dementia - you may be with them for years, they will learn your name, they will know your face, if blind they may even come to recognize the cadence of your voice or the shape of your hand on theirs: "You have the hands of a pugilist."

And then out of the blue, they will forget.  Suddenly, three years in, you are a stranger again and the process starts once more - the hesitancy, the fear, the questions you've answered before.  I have answered his questions before: "Tell me were your parents German?", "Mädchen, what size are those feet of yours?" but this is a new one.  I examine a book about German U-boats and then I turn to him.  He is very thin.  His shins stick out like blades under his skin and occasionally bite through, leaving open sores.  Once, early on, I was walking down the hallway late at night doing my usual rounds, checking rooms, and I was drawn in by an unusual smell: metal.  It was warm, salty like ocean spray, and metallic like a jar of pennies.  I found him sitting on the floor of his bathroom with his legs out in front of him, the floor painted with his blood, the paper-thin skin on his calves having opened up when he fell.

"I seem to have fallen." he said, then examined me as though we were at an interview, as though he was not sitting in a spreading pool of his own blood, "Are you a married girl?"

I was not married then, I am now.  Marriage has made me strangely aware of my own mortality and more to the point, the mortality of my partner.  Ever since I had surgery where I hallucinated her beside me, I have dreamt of her as an apparition with purple Gerber daisies for eyes and yellow filaments, and those dreams always smell like honey and pennies.  In my worst dreams when this doppelganger of her arrives, she comes as a comfort, a specter that is both blunt and encouraging, and seemingly immortal.  There's probably some kind of psychology at work here, but I haven't really figured it out.  I think I just like my wife a lot.

It took weeks for his legs to heal and by the time they did, I had cut off my hair.

"Are you a boy or a girl?" he asks, and I know what he would have done to someone like me when he was younger.  I examine the framed photo a moment longer, then set it down.  After a consideration, I answer:


Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2016, 10:32:12 AM »

Trigger Warning: Suicide attempt.


"I just want to help."

It is six in the morning and I didn't sleep again.  It's the second night in a row and nothing is making sense.

I am very high up.  I think the tenth floor, maybe the eleventh, but I knew the windows up here were being replaced, that there was nothing but a piece of plastic tarp taped to the frame here, a bit of wooden board over it until the new glass can go in.  I am very high up and I am looking down, far down below where there is almost no one.  I can see the front drive, where busses will occasionally come by.  I can see the street in the distance, I can see people going about their day.

An hour ago, someone spent almost half an hour saying very unkind things to me, again.  In graphic words involving every curse in the english language, I was informed I am a worthless and generally unlovable person.  I couldn't find it in me to disagree.  I just sat in silence and listened while this person turned into a red-faced, raging demon beside me.  I did consider bailing out, but the car was moving very fast at the time.  It wasn't the first time this kind of thing had happened, it wasn't the only bad thing to happen, everything is a build-up, everything is a culmination of events and while standing up there, I considered that my entire life was probably leading to this point anyways.  Eventually, I would end up here and I felt I had put it off longer than expected. 

I wanted to say I'd had a good run, but I hadn't.  I spent my days numb and blank.  The only word for it was tired.  I was tired.  I was finished.  It was time to pack it up.

It was six in the morning and I was moving the wooden board out of the way and looking down from a high height and gauging the chances of anyone walking by when I stepped out.  My only worry was that I would hit someone when I landed, that finding me might hurt someone for the rest of their life.  With the plastic in my hand, late winter wind hit my face and I didn't feel it.

"I just want to help."

It came from behind me and my heart almost leapt out of my chest.  I turned and a woman was standing there, just a few feet away, having come out of her office.  She had thick glasses, her hair pulled up high and tight, the groggy look of someone who didn't sleep much either.  She is thin and worried, her hands are held up passively, and her eyes are on my hands, which are still holding the plastic.  I drop it, and the wind pointedly blows in at us, much sharper than I realized it had been.

I don't know this woman, but her eyes have gone glassy even though I have said nothing.  No one has asked before, no one had noticed before, I have never said it before, I have never brought it up to the people around me, but this stranger's eyes are glassy because she knows.  She knows what I was trying to do. 

And I cannot do it in front of her.  I feel a spill of cold down my back and into my stomach and I cross my arms over myself. 

"Can I help?" she asks, and I realize I'm crying.  I didn't know I was.  My face is cold and wet and I shake my head.  I try to smile but I know it must be an awful expression.  I want to make this blog post funny somehow, but I can't.  Dicks.  Dicks, maybe.

"I'm just going to go." I say, and she nods.

"Okay." she says.

"I'm going to go outside and catch a bus and go home." I say.

"Okay." she says again.

"Thanks." I say, and she nods again.  This is the exchange.  She has just saved my life and maybe she knows it and maybe she doesn't.  Maybe all she can think is I might go home and do it there instead, but she has stopped me and I still remember her face, but I don't know her name. 

I go outside.  I catch a bus.  Halfway home, I am found by the person who has been unceasingly cruel to me.  He is apologetic, as he often is after these moments.  He is sheepish and ashamed, as he should be, and he tries every angle to see if he can find a way to make it better - not for me, but for himself, because his guilt is eating him alive.  He does not like to feel guilty.  He does not like to know that he can be awful.  He gets angry with me because I can't stop crying, and he does not know what almost happened. 

I say:

"School was fine."

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2016, 11:22:49 AM »

I am being bitten.  I am having some difficulty processing this fact, but I am being bitten and the woman doing it is making growling noises, her dentures have sunken into the meat of my forearm and I am clenching my free hand open and closed, open and closed, because I know can't wrench her off of me.  Not just out of concern, but because I know that if I were to try, she would automatically bite harder - birds do that.  I realize this is likely consistent for nonagenarians as well.

The human jaw can generate 260 pounds of force.  I regret this knowledge in this moment, but it occurs to me in blinking neon lights at the forefront of my brain, like a motel sign.  She shakes her head viciously, snarls, tries to dig her teeth in deeper.  She will be 100 years old soon, happy birthday, Hannibal.

I have worked here a while.  I have gotten this woman out of bed several days a week for four years, gotten her dressed, fed her, comforted her, regularly give her peanut butter cookies, and she is biting me.  I actually don't feel betrayed.  She wanted hangers, is the problem.  Some idiot had left them out in the hallway on the railing and like a crow, she has been drawn to how shiny they are - some people with dementia, they collect things.  They hoard things.  At the time, it makes sense to them to grab the dozen or so clothes hangers that were just left out.  They are innocuous to someone who doesn't work in this industry, but in my job, a wire hanger may as well be a shiv.  The things I have seen weaponized still astound me.

She had abandoned her walker in favour of picking up said hangers.  She has fallen multiple times and for someone in their nineties, falling is a deadly scenario - head trauma can kill, a broken hip is typically a long-term death sentance.  I do not know why this is, but when someone breaks a hip in very old age, you can typically make a horrible assumption about their future, and it will be correct. 

I tried to get the hangers out of her hand, she tried to stab me with them.  I tried to get her hands back on her walker, both of my hands occupied, and she bit me.  She is biting me and she is hanging on, she is sinking her teeth in and does not want to let go, and I am clenching my now free hand, the hangers discarded onto a nearby cart, and a co-worker is down the hall, tilting her head, peering at us and trying to figure out what's happening.

My blood pressure has risen significantly, my face is hot with pain and I know I am vaguely scarlet.  My co-worker gives me a questioning thumbs up: all good?

"She is biting me." I say, from down the hall.

"Almost time for break!" chirps my co-worker, who has not heard me, who never hears me, who hears things 1000x more positive whenever someone else speaks.  I like her well enough, but in that moment I am prepared to bite her out of spite. 

"She is biting me." I repeat, as my co-worker disappears into another room.  There is a pause, a hesitation, she back-pedals and stares.

"What?" she asks.

"She's biting me." I say.  I am probably purple now.  The biter growls.

"She's biting you?" she asks.  I close my eyes.  I count backwards.  I can feel each tooth.  It seems like a lot of teeth.

"She's biting me." I repeat, and finally I am released.  A stretch of saliva strings my arm to her mouth.  She pulls back, glaring at me.  I know she is considering a second bite, but she grabs her walker and heads down the hall instead.  I look at my wet, throbbing arm and it is perfectly imprinted with human teeth, blossoming with bruises, but the skin is not broken.  I watch the lady go, she is cursing in German all the way down the hall, angry with me. 

"It's almost time for lunch." I call after her.

She calls me a name.  It's a bad one.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2016, 11:30:05 AM by Sevenpercentsolution »

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2016, 11:42:23 AM »

"You look like a clown."

I am either in scrubs or workout clothes, there is a rarely an in-between.  Scrubs are glorified towels on which people wipe their faces, material thick enough that if any bodily fluids get on it, it won't seep right through to your skin, you'll have time to attempt to clean it, material that is easily washed, but unflattering, sometimes scratchy, often unnatural fibres.  I am wearing scrubs as usual and it is my third time approaching a woman in her nineties who has not gotten out of her bed for three days. 

When I wake her up, she says: leave me alone.  I leave her alone and re-approach.  She says: go away.  I go away and re-approach, she says: come back and I will kill you.  I come back and she doesn't kill me, she finally accepts my help and I get her washed up.  The thing about this job is that you can't force people to take care of themselves or be taken care of, but legally you also can't just leave them be.  There's a fine line and you are constantly walking it.  You have to keep trying, keep coming back, keep persisting every five or ten or twenty minutes until they finally allow you to take care of them - anything less is neglect, anything more is controlling.

Today I am wearing lipstick.  It is bright red because I am always in scrubs, I feel like a garbage heap.  I feel like a towel.

"You look like a clown." she says, "You're turning yourself into a clown."

I find clowns terrifying.  I smile at her anyways.

"I will kill you." she says, and I help her get her socks on.  I brush her hair.  She looks up at me and her eyes crinkle in the corners, "My mother baked the best apple pies."

"Yeah?" I ask.

"Yes, the best apple pies." she repeats, "She was the best cook in the world, my mother.  My mother was the best woman in the world."

"You miss her?" I ask.

She tears up.  She is sitting on the edge of the bed and her wiry long arms reach out, reach for me, grab me around the waist, pull me in, and she buries her face into my ribcage.

"You have child bearing hips." she speaks into my stomach, "But you look like a clown."

"Thanks." I say.

"You are kind." she says.

"But I look like a clown." I repeat.

"But you look like a clown." she agrees.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2016, 11:47:57 AM by Sevenpercentsolution »

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2016, 12:15:22 PM »

"I'm looking for a friend."

I guesstimate that the woman in front of me is in her eighties.  She has another friend with her, roughly from the same decade, and they are both nervous.  I think when one reaches a particular age, one gets nervous walking into a locked ward - the floor I work on, it is locked and sterile and white.  It is what we all fear when we are teenagers experiencing the cruelty of hormones or mental illness or both.  They stand close to eachother, elbow-to-elbow, puppies in a new world, and they are both very small, and I wonder if it's just that the generations before me were short, or if I am very tall.

"We haven't seen her in a while." she says, "I was away from the country a long time.  We were good friends a very long time."

She tells me the name.  I tell her to go to the lounge.  She has a look of terror on her face and sometimes I forget that this place can be traumatic.  I guide them both to their friend, a woman whose dementia is mild compared to others, but I realize that it must be jarring to see a friend after so many years, to meet them once more and realize that something as basic as their speech has been stolen from them by a disease.  The friend they are looking for, she sits in a chair and watches the wall, the floor, the window.  She drools. 

Both of them are instantly in tears.  I want to comfort them, but I know there is no way to.  I have done this job so long that I am desensitized - I forgot how bad this can be for others.  I didn't think to warn them.  I am legally not allowed to, they just have to see for themselves.

They watch an old friend who is unable to respond and they weep in despair.  I go onto my haunches and look at all of them in turn.  I ask:

"You are old friends?"

The visitor nods. 

"Is this our future?" she asks.  The truth is they are horrified to see their friend this way, but they are terrified that maybe it could happen to them.

"I don't know." I say, "But there are a lot of advances happening in dementia care.  In alzheimer's care.  They've just started human trials for a treatment that breaks up plaque in the brain known to cause dementia symptoms."

They gaze at their friend.  A patient I regularly care for.  A woman who never speaks, but is reluctant to get out of bed, who stomps her feet when you try to wash her with water that isn't quite warm enough, who sticks her tongue out at you if you look too serious.  They are bereft.  I see someone who just can't speak, is all.  I know this is a different way of viewing things.

"She's there." I say.  Her friends look at me, "She's there." I repeat, "She's not gone, it's more like a maze she's trapped in, and sometimes she can see the exit, but it often disappears before she can reach it.  She's in there, and you just need to talk to her like anyone else."

They do.  They speak to her.  They tell her about their day, about their life, about the past few years.  They hold her hands, they pet her hair, they kiss her temple, and finally she smiles, her eyes light up: she knows.  She sees their faces and it clicks, the crowding of the maze has parted long enough that she knows them again because they found an in, they found a way to get past the barriers of dementia.  Hand-in-hand-in-hand they walk up and down the halls.  They sit together.  They hug.  They hold hands.  Some time later, I realize these women were never just friends and my heart breaks a little more. 

It's a maze, not a loss.  They are still there.

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2016, 09:20:00 AM »

It is six a.m. and I have just found a dead body. 

I have just arrived for my shift and I am going through the process of room checks, door-to-door like a bible salesman, popping my head into each to make sure all is well.  One of the last doors, I go inside, knowing the woman there is likely to be awake - she is permanently bed-bound and watches her television all day, typically tuned to TLC or HGTV, watching a show about addictions or house-flipping, or possibly a crime procedural. 

We often have the same exchange in the mornings:

"Good morning!" I say, too chipper.  She turns her head the inch or so that paralysis allows her. To her left, there are pictures of baby animals - puppies and goats and elephants, the species doesn't matter, as long as they are small, she will stare lovingly at the images.  On her calendar, she enjoyed the image of a kitten so thoroughly that it remained August in her room for months.
"Where have you been?" she asks, mock-grouchy, and I step into her field of vision.
"Playing hooky."
"Bad." she says, and furrows her heavy eyebrows. 
"You know it." I say, and point towards her feet, "Want me to jump on your bed?"
She gives this question almost zero consideration.
"Go for it."
I perch myself on the very edge of her bed, my feet against the ground, and bounce just enough to shift the entire frame, causing her to wiggle slightly on the spot, an instant of vibrating motion that always makes her begrudgingly smile.
"You nut." she says.

She is in her seventies and has essentially adopted every person who has come into her life, raising her own children, her sister's children, her children's friends, her grandchildren.  She often took in stray animals and raised them as well and when she was hospitalized for many, many months, she referred to a number of the nurses there as her children too.  After a time, she was moved to long-term care and was devastated to be away from the people she had come to know, but as always, she had adapted, come to know the people in her new location, and decided they were also her children.

In spite of her profoundly deteriorated physical condition - one that requires a number of machines to keep her life comfortable and a constant rotation of intravenous medications - she is mentally sharp.  Save for the occasional moments of confusion, she engages in deep conversation and it often scathingly witty.  She dislikes when I am gone for any length of time, as she has become accustomed to my presence.

"I'm back on Wednesday." I say to her, once.
"Wednesday." she repeats, I nod.
"That's two days from now."
"Two days." she says.  I move to leave, "Wait." she says, and I wait.  Sometimes it takes a while for her to formulate her response, she gets stuck like a record under its needle, her mind skipping until she gets back to the place she was in, "Do me a favour."
"Okay." I say.
"Take my hand out from under the sheets."
I do.  Only one of them functions, so I know which one she means - the thumb and forefinger still move, though the arm they are attached to does not, it is permanently stiff. 
"Okay." she says, "Now take my hand."
"Yes." I say, holding her arm up slightly.
"And slap yourself with it." she says, in the most serious voice she can muster.
We stare at each other.  We break into smiles at the same time and then laugh so hard we cry.

It is six a.m. and I have just found a dead body.  A week prior, while in her room, she gives me a puzzled look.

"What's wrong?" I ask.
"I need to go." she says.
"Go where?"
"Home." she says.
"You live here." I say.
"I need to get to the car." she says, and my stomach drops.  Transit.

I am standing in her room, it is six a.m., and she has left us.  She is still there, in bed, but she is not there anymore.  My too-chipper good morning peters off halfway through and I am left standing still and quiet in the dark room.  The trash can is full of crumpled tissues, there are empty pizza boxes, a dozen paper coffee cups, a few extra pillows on the chairs, the signs of a family that has been there all night.

I step out into the hallway and a tired night shift nurse that I have never met regards me the way one might regard a decorative plant - her gaze has mostly skipped past me and deemed me irrelevant. 

"When did she go?" I ask. 
I point towards the room.
"When did she go?" I repeat, and she sighs.
"I don't know.  I don't remember.  I have too much to do right now."

This happens sometimes.  There are so many staff members, so many shifts, so many rotations that things get lost in the fray, and then one day you step into the room of a person you have known for five years only to find they are gone, and no one said a thing.  No one knew to say something.  I breathe down something hot in my chest that I recognize later as anger.  I manage a wan smile.

"Bad night?" I ask, and the nurse's thin shoulders fold down and inwards like she is trying to make herself small enough to fit between the tiles, and she nods tiredly.  This job is draining, there are bags under her eyes, her scrubs are rumpled.  I begin to head back to the meeting room, and she speaks up behind me.

"By the way, you're short-staffed today."


I drop my head for a moment.  I continue down the hall.  A patient, still in her floral night gown, shuffles up to me and looks up imploringly, gesturing widely like she is in a stage show, and she speaks Hungarian, begins to cry.  I take her hand mid-gesture and we go into the meeting room together, she sits with all the nurses at the table as we have our morning meeting.  At the end, I say:

"She passed away last night."

Looks of devastation flit across every face.  Collectively, everyone rises and they go to her room.  They say goodbye.  One of them, who has done the job almost thirty years, begins to cry. 

The day moves on.  A co-worker gets a phone call that her partner has been hospitalized, she goes home.  Another is struck down by a stomach virus and is sent home.  We are at half the staff we need and desperately trying to keep up, but we hit our stride as we always do, and by eleven, we have managed all of our work - somehow, we have managed. 

It was a co-worker's birthday the previous day.  I have brought in a cake for her.  Students are with us and we all surprise her and sing happy birthday and a patient is in the room with us when it happens, thinking it is her birthday and smiling broadly.  I portion out the cake and the funeral home has finally arrived.  A student asks to 'see it happen'.  I inhale.  I exhale.  This is a good learning experience.

We watch her go, taken away on a velvet-lined stretcher. 

Her family arrives after, separately, one-by-one.  Her neice is first, a stocky woman who was always by her aunt's side, she wears sunglasses inside and smells distinctly of coffee that day, and she grabs me and pulls me close:

"You were her favourite." she says.
"She was my favourite." I reply, "We aren't even supposed to have those."

Her son comes later.  He is six-foot-two, a man with a white goatee and a shaved head, perpetually wearing cargo shorts and flip flops, regardless of how cold the weather becomes.  Wordlessly, he goes down the hall.  After a while, I follow and find him sitting in the empty room, his head in his hands.  I stand beside him, my hip beside his shoulder, I place my hand on his back.  Suddenly he is grabbing me around the waist, his face is buried into my ribcage, and he is wailing like a child, the dam broken, his enormous hands clutching my scrub top.

"Thank you." he says, "Sorry."

He repeats this several times, again and again, until he regains his composure.  When he pulls away, there is a wet imprint of his face on my side and he is embarrassed.

"I'm sorry for having a breakdown." he says.
"If there's ever a time to have a breakdown, it's when you lose your mother." I reply.

At the end of the shift, the students are sitting at the meeting table, closing their day.  Soon they will be doing the job I am doing.  They all look up at me, with my scrubs wet on one side, with my rumpled pants and my tired face, like the nurse at six a.m.

"The cake was really good." one says.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2016, 09:23:03 AM by Sevenpercentsolution »

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2016, 02:09:04 PM »

"Can you fix my sleeve?"

She looks like she is only a portion of a person now, like when she got into bed last night, only a third of her made it there.  The bed, which is a single, looks like it is swallowing her and her face is so thin that her cheeks have begun to sink in.  She has become cold all the time and has taken to wearing bright pink fingerless wool gloves, but the slight wrinkles in any of her blankets or clothes set off a kind of hysterical discomfort that has her ringing her service bell every five minutes. 

She can't breathe.  Most of the time, she can't breathe.  She is permanently on oxygen and hasn't left her room for the better part of a year, though when she could, she would often panic at being so far from her bed, her television, the warm familiar comfort of a temperature-controlled space of her own. 

But it is the wrinkles that will drive her up the wall.  I go through the process - I sit her up, I move her pillow, I fix the sheet beneath it so it is flat.  I lay the pillow back down and stretch out the case.  I lift the back of her sweater and pull her shirt down tight, tucking it so it will stay in place, then pull her sweater back over.  I carefully lay her back down and she clings to me, perpetually afraid of being moved, her hands enormous compared to her bird-bone arms, my bicep is bigger than her thigh.  I lay her down.  I move her gloves, I straighten the sleeves of her night gown first by stuffing my hand into the sleeve of her sweater, then while she holds the night gown sleeve, I straighten the sweater sleeve over top of it.  I pull her wool gloves back on, then carefully maneuver them over the double sets of sleeves.  I straighten all of her blankets, one by one.  I stretch a flannel one, folded three times, over her feet.  I physically lift the foot end of her bed and tuck it all under.  The entire process has taken ten minutes, but now she lays in the bed, perfectly straightened, wrinkle-free, satisfied.

I leave the room.  I close the door almost entirely behind me, and I wait. 

I count: one, two, three.

She calls my name.

I go back in.  She looks at me from the bed, relieved I haven't gone yet.

"I have to go to the bathroom." she says, and I get her out of the bed.

When I am out in the hallway, a resident's wife tells me she has purchased a wireless speaker for her husband so they can listen to radio shows together, but it doesn't work.  She's only had it a couple weeks and she's been on the phone for hours - she is going to have to send it in to be repaired, she says, and she's so frustrated.

I take the wireless speaker, I turn the bluetooth back on, and I sync it to her phone.  I turn up the volume, music begins to play, and she grabs me by the face and kisses my cheek.

"Do you think you could fix the heater too?" she asks, joking. 

I get a pair of pliers.  I straighten out the prongs on the plug.  I plug it back in.  Fixed.

A bell rings. 

"Can you fix my sleeve?" I am asked, and she has trouble getting the words out, huffing them out with long breaks between each one.  We go through the process and I wait outside her door.  She calls my name and I go back in.

One day, a co-worker has a deep splinter.  I remove it with a pair of tweezers from the mini first aid kit I keep with me.

Being useful is my favourite thing.

A bell rings.

She holds up her hand and I know what she needs.

"Fix?" she asks, and she can no longer lift her head, so I lift it. 

A deeply nervous nurse tells me that one of the beds has ceased to work, she cannot get it to the proper height to perform the care that needs doing on a patient.  I repair the remote.  The bed moves. 

A bell rings.  Her daughters are both in the room with her today and she looks at me from the bed and I go to her sleeve.  She shakes her head.  She points to herself and I watch her for a long time before I get it: fix?

"I'll get the nurse." I say.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2016, 02:15:59 PM by Sevenpercentsolution »

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2016, 02:36:17 PM »

A band comes in every Sunday.  I have been working in the same place for several years now, and I remember the band having a lot more people in it.  Today it consists of a man with an accordion and a man with a lute, both of them are in their eighties and wearing alpine hats and it occurs to me that the rest of their band mates would have been in their eighties as well, and I am glad I didn't make the joke I was going to make about a one-man band. 

We have a lot of volunteers, they come and go.  Two of our patients like to sit side-by-side at all times and keep a running commentary going about them, loudly judging the hair, make-up, outfits, hygiene of anyone who passes.  Their favourite target is a pianist, an extremely nice woman who comes in and plays German music, the same set list a few times a month.

"Oh no." says one of them.

"Not her." says the other, and begins to fake-cry.

Beside her, another patient steadily screams - no words, just screaming.  Further down the room, another patient breaks into the occasional bout of diabolical laughter and when anyone gets close enough to ask her what's so funny, she'll call them a bastard until they leave her alone.  Another resident likes to stand from her wheelchair every five to ten minutes, setting off a shrill alarm.

"Can't we just have a little peace in here?" says the first. 

I can say that I see her point.

The pianist plays her set. 

"Someone cut my ears off." says one of them.

"Why do we have to listen to this?" says the other.

I am on my break.  I lean in the doorway and eat a banana.  They are at the end of the set list, a song called only: aufweidersehen

Mid-song, the pianist dies.  There is no preamble, she just crashes headfirst into the keyboard.  Three nurses converge on her at the same time, people are everywhere and I will only get in the way - I go to the dining room, where a co-worker is inputting patient information.

"What's going on out there?" she asks.

"Pianist died." I say, eating my banana.  She laughs.  I don't.  I just eat. 

Later, that same co-worker comes back in, white-faced.

"The pianist died." she says.

"Well, yeah." I say.  I go to the door and peer out into the hallway.  Paramedics are there and the pianist has been resuscitated.

"Why can't we ever have any peace?" asks a patient.

"Actually I don't mind this." says the other.

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2017, 06:24:07 PM »

"Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your lord and savior?"

It is seven in the morning and this is not my floor. I am not used to this floor, I do not know the patients here, their routines, their habits, and they do not know me. It is early and I am filling in for someone else and often feel as though I am a poor substitute. I have given a shower to a very thin woman and I have just dried her hair, I am brushing it. She cranes her head back as much as she can in order to look up at me from the shower chair, a commode on wheels.

I lie.

"Yes." I say.

"I accepted Jesus Christ into my life at twenty-three." she says.

"I was baptized." I say. I am on shaky ground here.

"That isn't the same." she says, "I accepted him."

I process this. Internally, I compare it to original Star Trek fans versus the more recent variety.  I compare it to Star Wars.  I compare it to an eternity of pop culture fandoms where one generation considers itself more relevant than another.  This is probably another reason why I am not going to get into heaven, assuming it exists.

"What you mean is, you weren't brought into it as a child, but you found religion as an adult." I say, and she nods. I get her dressed. She touches my jaw.

"Jesus will love this face." she says.

Later, she has forgotten me. She studies me as I move through the dining room. She sits at a table with other patients.

"What is that?" she asks, watching me go, "What is it? I can't tell. Look at its hair. Its hair is so short."

I pour coffee and tea. I ask what people take: milk, cream, sugar?

"Look at it. It walks like a boy."

I come to her table.

"What do you take?" I ask them, and she smiles at me. I recall helping her get her teeth in that morning.

"Are you a boy, or a girl?" she asks. For the last ten minutes, she has been commenting on me. I shrug.

"What do you take?" I repeat.

"Milk and sugar." she says, and I make her tea. I continue on.

"It has no chest." she says, "Look at how it moves.  It moves like a man."

At another table, a very large Italian woman has been listening to this running commentary and she has reached maximum tolerance.  She rolls her chair backwards turns it to the speaker's table and says:

"What does a man move like?"

She hesitates.

"Well," she gestures at me, "Look at it."

"Shut your mouth.  Shut your mouth or I'll shut it for you.  Stop talking.  I don't want to hear your damn mouth.  Shut up." says the woman in the chair, and she returns to her spot.

"Well, look at it." she repeats.

Her table mates look uncomfortably down at their breakfast.

"Boygirl." she concludes, "It's a boygirl. It's a boygirl. Look at that boygirl. It moves like a man. It has no chest. I have more chest than it does, look at its hair."

I have frustrated people this way before. I continue on with my day. She continues to address me whenever I pass by:

"Boygirl, get me a napkin."

"Boygirl, get me a glass of water."

"Boygirl, I need the bathroom."

I comply. This does not satisfy.

"Fagboy." she says.

I stop moving in the middle of the hallway. There's my foot, caught in a trap.

"Fagboy." she repeats, delighted, "Faggyboy. Girlboy."

I count backwards. I turn and come back to her room, go down on my haunches.

"We're going to address that." I say. She smiles. I smile back.

"Did I upset you today?" I ask.

"Well no." she says.

"Was I cruel to you today?" I ask.

"Well no." she says.

"Have I been unhelpful today?" I ask.

"Well no." she says.

"So why are you disrespecting me?" I ask.

"I suppose I'm just a nasty person." she says.

"Is that all?" I ask.

"That's all." she says.

I get to my feet.

"Okay." I say, "Have a good day."

"But are you a boy or a girl?" she asks.

I look at her. She smiles. I smile.

I shrug.

Her smile dies.

"Doesn't matter." I reply, "Have a good day."

I leave.  I think I need a t-shirt with boygirl on it.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2017, 08:09:59 PM by Sevenpercentsolution »

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2017, 11:06:58 PM »

“Good morning.” I say.

“Töte mich.” she says.

I am opening blinds, cranking them gradually upwards to reveal the enclosed facility courtyard.  Above the rooftop, I can see the barest hint of orange sunlight threatening to present itself.  A patient lays in bed, one leg over one side of the mattress, one arm over the other side of the mattress, her limbs are everywhere, a Vitruvian woman.  She is so thin that her chest and stomach are concave and she looks up at the ceiling.

“Töte mich.” she repeats, and my German is not very good, but I understand.

“That’s not in my job description.” I say.

“Töte mich jetzt.” she says.

“Nein.” I say, “I can’t do that.”

“Well if you won’t kill me, what do you do all day?” she asks.

I snap my fingers, then point at her like the Fonz.  She looks at me like I’m an idiot and fair play to her, I have no idea why I thought that might bring her back from the abyss.

“I fail to make people smile, is what I do.” I say, pulling her socks off.  They have been left on all night and her ankles are swollen, her skin looks like papier-mâché, crumpled in the elastic pattern of the material, “How did you sleep?”

“I didn’t.” she says.

“Oh.” I say as I wash her feet.  I put new socks on her.  I put pants on her.  I put her shoes on her.  Through all of it, I can’t think of anything to say: it is six in the morning and already someone has asked me to kill them.

“Someone needs to kill me.” she insists.  This isn’t a new topic, but the persistence is unusual, “Someone needs to make the time to kill me.”

“You seem to be working on that yourself.” I say, “You haven’t been eating.”

She says nothing.  It has been three days and she has refused every meal, taking only sips of water whenever the discomfort is too great.  We are both silent as I help her dress.

“Why aren’t you eating?” I ask, breaking the silence.  I know the answer.

“I don’t want to be here anymore.” she says.

“Ah.” I say.  Yeah.  I knew the answer.  She watches me for a response, “Are you tired?”

She considers this question for a while.

“Yes.” she says.

“Are you angry?” I ask.


“Yes.” she says.

“Why are you angry?” I ask.

“Because God took everyone but me.” she says, “I must have been terrible, to be left here.”

I tie her shoes.  I am the worst person for the topic of religion.

“I must have been terrible,” she continues, “For Him to take everyone else and leave me.  He will not take me.  Someone has to kill me.”

“Well, it’s not going to be me.” I say, “So how about some toast?”

I look up at her and she pats me on the cheek.

For another two days, she refuses to eat.  On the sixth day, she has some tea.  On the seventh, she has toast.  On the eighth, I come into her room, we study each other, and I open her blinds.

“Good morning.”

Offline SevenpercentsolutionTopic starter

Re: TRANSIT: A blog about dying and cooking and stuff
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2017, 01:41:50 AM »

It is six in the morning and alarms are going off.  They are placed outside of every room, one for each door, green for a request, red for an emergency.  Green lights are happening down the hallway, which means we have some time.  Not much.  Night shift is still on, making their rounds, answering bells, and we know they're tired, but we at least need to get through the morning update.

In the lounge some patients are already awake.  The ones who aren't in wheelchairs can be left to their own devices, but the province recently made belts on wheelchairs illegal, so now sometimes they stand, the ones who can't support themselves believe they can and they stand, and they fall.  We attach alarms, magnetic ones that pull away when they stand.

One of them stands several times an hour, her alarm goes off again and again and again.  We come running when we hear it, it's a Hunger Game situation - whoever gets there first.  Mostly we catch them before they hit the ground but sometimes we don't.  Sometimes they slide and they're okay.  Sometimes they fall and there's so much blood.  Once, one fell and I went to support her head and came up with my bare cupped hands full of blood, swimming in it, frozen in horror.  Scalps bleed a lot.

She stands, someone comes, she sits. 

She stands, someone comes, she sits.

"I just want to stand." she says, her voice rasping; we feel cruel doing this, always, but she doesn't know where she is, who she is, and her legs won't support her for more than a few steps.  We take the steps with her, but then her body gives out and she has to sit again.

"I just want to stand." she wails.  Her legs hurt.  Her back hurts.  Her tailbone hurts.  Wheelchairs cause pain, they open up pressure ulcers that have to be treated with creams and bandages - mobility aids aren't perfect, but they should be.  We have to keep doing our job, so people get left to their own devices, now without belts, and while we understand the sentiment behind the legislation, the reality of it is different.  See enough heads crack open and a seatbelt makes sense.

We have students today.  I'm still fairly new on the job and I've only had one or two students.  They're usually intensely nervous, quiet.  This one, she's shown up in heels, skinny jeans, fake nails.  Everyone else in the room: scrubs and runners.  This isn't a sartorial commentary, it's about common sense.  She's assigned to me.  Of course she is.

We go into a patient's room.  This is their home.  What we do here is personal.  We are their housekeepers, their therapists, their naturopaths, their nurses, their friends, their valets.  We wake them, we shower and dress them, we feed them and change them, we put them to bed, we are a part of their every waking moment and every one of those waking moments must be treated with respect.

We go into a patient's room and the student clicks in after us.  She has her cell phone.

"You can't have that here." I say.

She puts her hand up.  In my face.  I look at her long nails, at her palm, and I think about biting it, hard. 

"I've got things to do." she says.  She sits down.  She has gone to the chair a family member uses and sits down, crossing her legs, looking at her phone.

The resident is awake now, staring at the cat pictures on her wall, singing: this is the day that the lord has made.  I hum along for a moment, then look at the student.

"Sorry?" I ask.  I heard her.  I just want to make sure she said what she meant to say.

"I. Have. Got. Things. To. Do." she repeats, looking at her phone.  I heard her.  She said what she said, and she goes on, "I'm not going to spend my life wiping asses like you people."

My partner, the one I've worked with for a while, is short and sweet and English is her fourth language.  What's being said translates to her, but I can tell she thinks she's got it wrong, so she smiles, looks between us, questioning everything: this isn't what it is, right?

This is what it is.

"Get up." I say.

"I want to sit." she says, smiling at her phone.  I walk over to her.  I crouch like I'm dealing with a child.  I wait until she looks up and she does and I point.

"Get out." I say, "Get up, get out."

She's startled.  She didn't expect this.  I can see it on her face, she's not used to this kind of response.

"I'm not going to wipe asses." she repeats haltingly.

"Get out." I repeat.

"My boyfriend is going to make sure I don't have to do this for long, I'm just doing the school because -" she says.  I know what she's going to say.  Because it's cheap.  Because you can get it government-funded.  Because she took a placement from someone else, she charmed her way into a position she didn't want and took a student placement from someone who would give a damn.  She's sitting in a patient's room and fully expected to stay sitting there.

"Get out, now."

I speak to the student's teacher later, I tell her the situation.  The next day the student shows up in scrubs, sneakers, the fake nails are gone.  She begs for my forgiveness and I don't have the kind of time to hate people.

We go into the same patient's room and a transformation happens.  The student's face goes sour.  She sits.

"Get the fuck out." I say to her.  I hear a gasp from behind me.  I am looking at the student and I know that hatred is pouring out of me, but I can't stop it.  She gets up, sobbing.

"I just want to sit." she says, and leaves and never comes back.

My partner looks at me, shocked.  I am usually quiet.  In two years she hasn't heard me swear, I've hardly spoken.  She knows nothing about me.  I am enraged about everything all at once but I can't find the words to express it.  I go through my day, I talk to the teacher, I talk to my boss, I clear the air as much as it can be cleared. 

At the end of my shift an alarm goes off.

"I just want to stand."
« Last Edit: November 20, 2017, 01:45:07 AM by Sevenpercentsolution »