Hand to Hold
Hand to Hold
March 30, 2017
Trees seem to have never ending beauty. You can stare at them for hours, months, even years, and still find something that makes them ornate and stand out from each other. I like to think that people are the same way, as we get older, we develop more wrinkles on our skin to show the good times we have had. The deep crevices are just another marker of the tough times we have weathered. I just wish that…
“Adalia, are you finished in the garden yet,” asks Nikki as I finish writing up my thoughts in my well-worn leather journal. Nikki is sort of an odd duckling, she is a no nonsense dayshift nurse that never seems to know how to express herself without coming across as rude. Nikki is a petite little thing standing just over five feet with short and curly red hair. Her wide rimmed glassed always look like their falling down her face. Beautiful young lady, though it wouldn’t hurt her to smile more often.
Without waiting for a reply she continues, “It’s supposed to start raining in an hour or so. You better start wrapping up, I don’t want you getting sick again.” There is just something about Nikki that you can’t help but appreciate. Brutal honesty is her best policy. If you can’t handle what she has to say, you really needed to hear it.
I can’t help myself as I turn towards the short curly haired woman and murmur, “yes dear, of course dear, I’ll head right inside my dear,” laughing as I roll on past her in my wheelchair. Taking extra care not to roll over her little toes.
Slowly I make my way towards the grand entrance hall as we like to call it here at the retirement home. Along the way, I look out over the abundant flower garden. Noticing the vibrant little green hummingbirds that are hovering over the gorgeous snow-white flowers. The stark contrast between the two makes the birds appear as vibrant as the green leaves hanging down from the trees overhead. Stone pillars soon stand proud on either side of the sliding doors as I make it to the main entrance.
Contemporary stain glass windows let in whirl winds of color as the sunlight filters through. Just inside the doors is a sunroom that overlooks the garden. This is one of my favorite places to sit when it rains. The pitter patter of the raindrops is soothing and makes everything appear mysterious and regal, especially during a storm. Gliding past the entry, I wave hello to the cook as I make my way into the dining room for breakfast.
“Hello Janet, Suzan. Have you been sleeping well,” I question my best friends since moving in here last year after I broke my hip. That was a nasty, nasty fall. Was clearing the driveway of rocks and slipped on some bubbles that the grandkids left out. Went straight to the hospital and was told that I wouldn’t be able to walk again due to the break. Honestly, I was blessed being sent here though, I met the most amazing people and the staff members are fantastic! Lost in thought, the clinking and clacking of plates being scraped brings me back to the present as I see the busboy clearing off the tables.
Heading back to my room, I stop along the way to say hello to the other residents as I know just how lonely this place can get. Especially so during the winter months. January through April seem to be the worst months for visitors since its cold and all the holidays have come and gone. My children seem to have abandoned me since I’ve been moved here. It’s as though they have forgotten that they even have a mother. Sad really, I took care of them for many years and they can’t even stop by for an hour or so to visit. Let alone a phone call.
This afternoon I have a doctor’s appointment to see how my hip is doing. I’ve been having a harder time getting up on my own lately. Figure there is probably quite a bit of arthritis in the joint at my age. Eighty-four just isn’t what people brag it up to be. All I seem to do is eat, nap, eat again, then sleep. I like to spend my free time awake in the gardens staring at the trees. Listening to the ruffling of the leaves as they sway in the hot breeze. This time to myself lets me think about everything that happened in my nursing years. The babies I delivered, tragic wrecks of neighbors, hearts stopping, and holding hands of those that were sick and scared.
Making my way to the hospital with Nikki at my side, I begin to fidget with my blue floral blouse. This hospital makes me uncomfortable after having spent a lifetime working here with many of the same staff members. I nervously glance around to see if I recognize anyone as we make our way to the clinic.
Once waiting comfortably outside the clinic, Nikki leans over and whispers, “do you want to hold my hand?” I give her a quizzical look as I ask, “how old am I again?” Snickering to herself, Nikki sits up straight and squares her shoulders as my name is called.
Moving through the appointment, I can’t help but get bored answering all of doc’s questions. Yes, I know what year it is. Yes, I take my medications. Yes, eat regular meals. No, I have no issues chewing. My teeth are perfectly fine. Glancing at the white walls I get lost in the cracks on the ceiling as we wait to hear the results of my bloodwork.
Suddenly the doctor knocks and makes his way into the tight room and leans down to whisper something into Nikki’s ear. Rolling my eyes, I ask half-heartedly, “Can’t be that bad right. What? Am I dying?” Nikki begins to fiddle with her curly red hair, twisting it until it springs free under the building tension.
Nikki struggles to make eye contact through her wide rimmed glasses as she begins to speak softly, “Adalia, I am so sorry. The bloodwork showed an astronomical increase in your white blood cell count. They are sending your labs in for further testing, but they believe you may have developed an aggressive form of blood cancer.” She looks away as her voice cracks due to the troubling news.
Stunned. All I feel is numb. No feeling makes its way though my chest as I am overwhelmed with shock and fear.
April 5, 2017
I have lived a healthy life! I was a nurse for forty-two years for goodness sake. If anyone knows how to take care of themselves it would be me. What am I going to tell my children? Who am I kidding they won’t even spare a glance at their phones. I don’t even know if they remember I am alive.
As I return to the retirement home, I realize that soon I will be placed on palliative care and have to transfer to a nursing home. Spotting Nikki in the now gloomy hallway I ask, “do you think I could be transferred over sooner? Get this over with quicker?” Nikki nods hesitantly but heads over to the nurse’s station where she proceeds to pick up a phone, glancing over at me in the process.
Before I know it, I am making my way to the nursing home to settle into my new room. The first few days are rough as I know none of the staff or residents. After a couple of restless nights, the nightshift charge nurse Natasha begins to visit me quite often.
April 11, 2017
I have made a few friends here, or at least I would call them friends. Perhaps acquaintances is more politically correct as I have only just met them. There is no telling how long I have left to live. I don’t want to get too close to others, or for them to get too attached to me. I don’t want to make this a hard goodbye. Rather, I just want to keep a friendly distance so as not to appear snooty. Heaven knows that the angels will be calling for me soon. May the Lord guide me home at his call.
I have seen Nikki almost everyday since I have moved to this place. However, every day is getting harder for me to breathe and move around. I can no longer leave my room due to the risk of contracting an infection. Natasha has been absolutely wonderful though! I don’t think I could ask for a better nurse.
Glancing up from my journal, I see Natasha bounding my way. “Hello Adalia! How are you doing this fine evening at the Nursing Home La Casa?” I can’t help but chuckle under my breath at Natasha’s antics. They never seem to get old. “I am doing fine dear. I just wish my children would head over here to check on me every now and again” I explain solemnly.
April 16, 2017
It is getting so hard being here alone most days, I have requested to see my children, but they won’t show. I’m hoping that they will at least call. On the bright side Janet and Suzan have been writing me letters almost every day. Nikki brings them when she visits. I want nothing more than to see my family, so I have put in a request to leave the facility to go surprise them next week. I hope it gets approved. Natasha says that I am too weak to be moving about. She is wrong though; she has no idea how many years I have been strong. I will stay strong until my last breath.
Seeing Natasha’s full figure walk past my room, I holler at her, “Natasha, do you have a moment dear?” Nodding her head, her thunderous steps fill the space as she enters my room. “What’s going on Adalia?” She inquires.
I take a minute to study her features. Bright red hair is tucked up into a neat and tidy bun. A gentle smile caresses her lips, just waiting to speak a kind word or two of comfort. Natasha has rather sharp cheekbones, but they do not take away from her soft and generous eyes. Her large frame provides comfort and warmth when she wraps her monkey arms around you in a motherly embrace.
Taking a long deep inhale, I look down at my clasped hands and exhale as I begin, “I just need you to know that I will forever be grateful for all that you have done for me. You have given me company when I am lonely and patiently sat through conversations about my children. I pray that God will watch over you and your family, that you will never experience loss or abandonment as I have.” Looking up at Natasha I struggle to meet her eyes.
“Oh Adalia,” Natasha gently grabs my hands in hers as she continues, “The Lord has blessed me with the opportunity to meet you and provide you companionship along your journey.” I have to break eye contact as tears begin to blaze a path down my face. She waits until I meet her eyes again before she continues.
“Adalia, you are so strong. You have lived many years of joy and hardship, all the while keeping a gracious smile upon your lips. You have proven us wrong time and time again. You never let this battle get you down. Always know that I love you dearly and want you to be as comfortable as you can.” Natasha looks out the window at the tree as she whispers, “sometimes you have to hold on, and other times you have to know when to let go.”
April 17, 2017, 11:34 PM
I can’t catch my breath it seems. Just when I think I can get a good breath, my lungs feel like they are collapsing into a ball of jelly. It’s almost like they are contemplating if they want to continue or not. I hope they can hang on for just a bit longer until I can see my kids, just three more days until I surprise them. I want to see them one last time before I go.
I take a moment to appreciate the private room I am in as many residents do not get a private room due to issues with insurance. I am extremely lucky that my healthcare would cover the costs. The walls are coated in lavender paint, accompanied by paintings of flowers and gardens. The room has been furnished to look like I am in an apartment. Soft blue sheets are spread across my bed which was equipped with a pressure mattress last week to help prevent bedsores; and dark navy curtains drape down over the windows, blocking my view of the trees.
Glancing over at the clock ticking away at the wall. With a shaky breath, I put on my call light.
April 19, 2017, 6:18 AM
Today I can’t breathe without the support of a CPAP machine. I think today may be the day. Nikki and Natasha surround me as I gasp for air. Praying that God or someone will end it for me. Tears stream down my cheeks as I smile looking down at the hands of the two people that have been there for me the most along my darkest days. Glancing over to my nightstand at the thickened liquid in my cup, I can’t help but think, perhaps water is thicker than blood.
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