Our Rose

Posted: September 12th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Friends and Strangers, Miss Kate | No Comments »

What do you do when the grandmother you’ve found for your daughter, in an attempt to fill the hole where her dead grandmother would be, is also dying?

Friday Kate and I went to Chaparral House to see Rose. She was sleeping and had on oxygen, but she’s had that intermittently in the past, so I didn’t think much of it. They tell the volunteers to gently wake up the folks you’re visiting if they’re asleep–since the sleep is pretty much due to boredom, or the grogginess they feel from their meds. But when I tried to rouse Rose over the course of a few minutes she just softy muttered and shook her head and wouldn’t open her eyes.

I wandered into the hall trying to decide if I’d drop in on someone else there for a visit, but truthfully, aside from quick hallway chats with Dorothy, there isn’t anyone aside from Rose with whom we have a strong connection there. I passed one of the nurses, a sassy African-American woman who always wears loud smocks and who I know is close with Rose too. She pulled me aside.

“Rose is in a, well, in a new place. It’s her heart. But I know she’d love a visit from you guys, even if you just sit by her bed.”

This wasn’t good news, I knew. But the mind has a way of interpreting things as it wants to sometimes, and I decided not to delve deeper into what she meant by “a new place.” Maybe this was just a passing episode. Rose had nodded off a couple times during a recent visit from us, which was unusual, but in general she’s seemed so vital and healthy. I mean, at least compared to the other folks there. Rose snubbed her nose at the food and often rolled her eyes at the other residents. I always took that as a good sign. She was stronger, smarter, more with-it than the others–enough so to look down on them, and at times the whole nursing home scene.

Kate and I went back in and eventually Rose opened her eyes for a couple short spells. She smiled to see Kate, but there was something different about her. She talked much less than usual and was clearly weaker, maybe even thinner. She was in a new place. But I still didn’t want to think about just where that was, or worse, where it was taking her.

After a while Kate was getting squirmy and Rose was clearly needing rest, so we headed out. All volunteers are required to write into log books about their visits with residents. You’re supposed to say a bit about how they were doing (cheerful, complained about pain, incoherent, confused). The comments are compiled and sent out as part of monthly reports that go out to the family of (or whoever pays the bills for) the resident.

When I opened the page for Rose I happened to read the comment written by a volunteer who’d visited with her the day before. “Sat with Rose and said my goodbyes. Very sad.” It was one time when the volunteer wrote how they were doing, instead of the resident.

And it spelled out for me the thought I was trying to push away and deny.

As I walked out to the car and started strapping Kate into her car seat, something about how unaware she was of what was happening–her excited reaction to finding a toy on her seat, when my heart was so heavy–struck me, turning the wetness in my eyes to sobs.

Kate looked up at me and registered concern for a moment, but then looked back down at her lion, and smiled, finding a good place to gnaw on. She seemed so innocent and naive, it killed me. The poor girl had no idea that she was about to lose one of her biggest fans.

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