He sat on the edge of the bed staring at a page in the magazine without really seeing the picture. The room was dark. The only light came from a small lamp on the table next to the bed. There were overhead lights we could have turned on but we just couldn't bear it. The room was bad enough without the greenish glow of the fluorescence adding to the awful yellow paint on the cinder block walls.
I squinted at the picture to see what he wasn't seeing. "That is a beautiful cabin isn't it, Daddy?" I said to him.
"Oh yeah!" my father answered back still staring into nothing.
Mom gently fingered each of his shirts as she hung them in the wardrobe on the opposite end of the room. She tried to keep busy, folding and sorting, as we waited for someone to come help us. It had been over an hour.
We had already given ourselves a little tour. We'd seen the "dining hall". We walked by the common area fully stocked with worn arm chairs and couches, an old television, puzzles, games, newspapers, and magazines. We passed a woman sitting in her wheelchair in the hallway sobbing over the baby doll in her arms. Dad bent down to her and said, "What a beautiful baby you have! You're doing just great!" One after another the prisoners received comfort from dad until mom and I could no longer witness his kindness and we took him back to his room.
When mom finished putting his clothes away and tidying up the barren room it was time to go. I went into the hallway and flagged down a nurse.
"Excuse me. My mom and I have to go now. Could someone please come and sit with my dad or show him around while we leave?" I pleaded.
"Um. It is a really busy time of night right now. Put him in the common area and he can sit with the other residents until we can get to him." she said quickly.
"Well, I don't know if that will work. He might start to follow us." I said, still trying to be polite.
"The doors lock so he won't be able to follow you." she answered without thinking.
"Listen, it's his first night here. Isn't there someone that can be with him while we are leaving?" I prodded.
"I'll be there in a minute." she spat at me as she turned and disappeared around the corner.
I walked back down the hall towards my dad's room. My stomach tightened and rolled, either from the ammonia smell lurking in the walls or what was to come.
"Let's go take a walk and watch tv, okay?" I announced as I rounded the doorway into the room. Mom nodded her head knowingly and grabbed her purse.
My face began to flush. I felt hot and light headed. I turned around and headed back into the hallway before mom and dad could see the blush that had crept into my face. I made my way down the hall to the common area, my heart smashing against my ribs with each step. After a few yards I checked behind me to see if mom and dad were following. They were coming out of the room, walking slowly, holding hands.
As we reached the common area the nurse rushed over.
"Hi John!" she shouted at dad. "I'm gonna sit with you in a minute, but you can sit here with Marianne and she will chat with you until I get back, won't you Marianne?"
Marianne did not say a word, or even look at dad, she just continued to stare at the light coming from the tv. Mom and I looked at each other with wide eyes as the nurse ran away leaving us to the dirty deed.
We eased dad into a recliner and gave him yet another magazine.
"Someone will be with you in just a few minutes, dad. Then they'll show you around, okay?" I bent over and hugged my dad around his broad shoulders that now felt frail. Sweat was forming on my upper lip. My throat was too tight to speak properly. "I love you, daddy. See you tomorrow." I whispered.
I stepped back and watched as mom kissed dad on the cheek and said, "Bye, honey. I'll see you in the morning. Love you!" His eyes looked up at her questioning. Confused. Worried.
I forced my body to turn and follow my feet down the hallway. As we reached the elevator I turned to see dad once more.
Still sitting in the recliner dad had twisted around to watch us go. I waved my hand to him and he waved back. And though we were a good distance away I could see he had tears in his eyes. His lips trembled and lost washed over his face. Abandoned.
I put my head down and let the hair fall over the sides of my face as I stepped onto the elevator. I closed my eyes, grabbed mom's hand, and held my breath for the ride down to the first floor.
The challenge was to write about a memory you wish you could forget. If you have been reading my blog for a while you are probably not surprised I chose to write about my dad going into the first nursing home (thank God the second nursing home was worlds better) towards the end of his very long battle with Alzheimer's. Though part of me wishes I could forget that experience I don't really want to loose any of my memories no matter how painful. Each experience we have in life helps us to grow, and learn, and makes us who we are.
I'm afraid I went over the 600 word count, but I edited all I could.