What Is Left

Submarine hatch
“What are you doing to me?” he asked sharply. 

I shoved a pair of new pajamas into the drawer and closed it, turning around to face him.

He sat on the edge of the bed. A once tall and proud man, he was now withered and shrunken. His eyes accused me. Of what, he was no longer certain, but he was absolutely sure I was guilty.

He was right.

“This isn’t a cruise ship is it?” I shook my head. “I lost my wallet and haven’t got any money.” The anger in his voice was replaced by fear.

I patted his hand reassuringly. “It’s rehab, hon. You’ll be back home before you know it.” The lie burned my throat as I said it but it mollified him for the moment.

The roommate sat across the room watching our exchange silently from his wheelchair, wrapped in a plaid robe with white socks pulled up to his knees. His grizzly, stubbled face showed no sign of recognition or understanding but his eyes followed me suspiciously about the room. 

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” I bent low, kissing the wrinkled forehead, and squeezing his hand. He smiled weakly. 

I’d loved him. Once. 

Now someone else was living in this body of his. There was distance between us that stretched much father than the few inches apparent to the casual observer. I felt nothing for this interloper, but still there were social expectations that had to be met, guilt that must be assuaged.

How often must I visit him to keep from being ostracized by friends and family?

Somehow I deserved this, I had no doubt, but he did not.

I understood now, I realized, as I walked down the corridor for the hundredth time. This must have been how Prometheus felt.

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75 thoughts on “What Is Left

  1. This made me shiver because of my own experiences and memories, particularly ‘How often must I visit him to keep from being ostracized by friends and family?’ I did more than anyone could have expected and yet was still greeted by one of his so-called friends with ‘How are you going to upset him this time?’

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Lack of forgiveness comes on both sides. About 20 years ago, my father had to put my mother into a nursing home after she had a series of strokes. My mother was oblivious, but my dad never forgave himself for being unable to care for her any longer.

    It’s a terrible situation all around.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I’m sorry you are going through this. My Mother whom I never had a relationship with to begin with lingered on in a nursing home for 5 years. A regular one for 3 and then a memory care one for 2. In the beginning she expected me to come every day! My bad for putting her so close I suppose. Anyway I don’t have to tell anyone of the nightmares we endured one of which was her nearly getting kicked out for throwing water on her roommate. She hung on to 93 years old, I’ve often thought just to piss me off!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. But think on this, Prometheus had his Heracles, so his punishment was not eternal after all. My mum spent a number of years in a nursing home and after church we went to the nursing home and took her home with us. She spent the day with us and the children and in the evening, after a family dinner and I then took her back to her room and settled her down. Christmas she spent with my sister and her family – New Year and Easter she spent with me. She was never neglected nor forgotten and others, who had family there, took the time to visit her.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The husband wife relationship is the challenging one. I don’t think children are expected to visit every day, but there is certain social expectation that spouses will/should be more devoted. At least this is what I have observed around me.

      Liked by 2 people

    • So true! You might be surprised how one can grow in patience and compassion even with someone who was less than wonderful in real life situations. And then, there is often that “light bulb” moment where you understand they really are in there, just clouded with too much stimuli.

      A photo board above the bed is one of the most important features of such a room, because new caretakers can see these sufferers really were somebody before all this happened.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Wonderfully creative how you chose that photo with a chain and later used Prometheus as a reference point for enduring one’s punishment in life. Interesting how guilt always creeps in and we think we deserve to suffer. The human condition, I guess.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. We were so lucky–between my nine brothers and sisters, we were able to keep my parents in their home even as they both suffered from dementia — and as each of them firmly believed they were the other one’s caretaker. But I often wondered how families who did NOT have ten kids found the financial and emotional resources to cope.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. A miserable place to be for resident and caregiver. I’m glad through reading the comments that this is a work of fiction. My mother is in a nursing home and she still manages to drive me and my brother batty.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Yes. Much sadness. Sadness for incredible lives lived that close in such “lonely” ways. Sadness for a spectrum of memories in those lives….all reduced to blankness, confusion, hurt, isolation. As I’ve noted before, you have this depth of compassion, Victo, whereby you capture the essence of the human condition without apology.

        Liked by 2 people

      • And….I’m glad, in a way, that you were thus inspired to write your compelling story. Since we all carry endless stories within ourselves, by you reaching out to all of your patients, you are given the gift of seeing such a diverse array of experiences to draw upon.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. My grandfather had never raised a hand to my grandmother in over 60 years of marriage and in a childhood shared… But near the end, the meds, the pain, the hallucinations … He went after her with his cane. She was a tiny woman, and even a shrunken him could beat her bloody… And that’s how it went. We don’t know how much of him was really there then. That’s the only way to assuage the guilt we all felt. No one wanted it to be like that. No one.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. No good end here. I’ve been there. You’ve captured it well. It really brings in sharp relief how little we know about the mind, and even about each other, in the end. I often wondered what exactly my mother was seeing, thinking, hearing, feeling. I have no idea. But something must have been there, inside her consciousness. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hey Victo,

    Virtues such as kindness compassion generosity Love and Grace, once pillars underpinning the social structures of civilization have collapsed baring the weight of a World weighted to profiteer without them.

    There appears no understanding of important social issues by Governments. Indeed your commentary here often tells us so. No fear either for their own future and no thought for ours. No fear of failing their people or so it seems. So arrogant are they stuffed full with pomp and self-effacing expectation to consider their business is no longer one of service to its people. Governments no longer serve anyone other than themselves but receive vast benefits in addition to vast salaries. Public Service should be a salaried privilege not open opportunity to systematically profiteer personally.

    The National Health Service in the UK once envy of the world no longer serves. Trust Funds fund important hospital managers, important administrators, important shareholders and other blue-tied black eyed money-men. There are not enough nurses Doctors medical professionals and other purveyors of healing Arts. (I am broadminded to see value in holistic practice/alternative therapies complementing mainstream medicine.) Hospital Managers and NHS Trusts can’t afford to employ more for fear of reducing profits and Manager’s salaries.

    Why do I care? I care when funding by a pharmaceutical company finds no profit in provision of medicine and withdrawing the product leaves people to die. Slowly. I care when the provision of healthcare services I pay for as a tax-payer fall way short of my expectation. I care when health provision bleeds people dry or remains exclusive affordable only for those who can afford it or receive it by way of title, station, or privilege. What happens to thousands of people who cannot pay? Will they be left always waiting in pain and hope for treatments that never come without profiteering attached?

    I will never understand why Our Earth must turn on an axis of money when an axis of spiritual gold would be more virtuous and far healthier for all. Why do we allow money to limit opportunities for social progression but allow it to be used as a mechanism to differentiate and stratify societies? Our ancestors, past Empires and civilizations once thrived without capitalists, financers and bankers. Their people also thrived without them when bound to the Land and living with Love instead.

    Namaste

    DN – 05/03/2017

    A quick line or two.. πŸ™‚

    My wheelchair of steel.
    Steels my mind.
    Stills my age.
    Slows my time.
    Stops with death.
    Still rushing.
    Still rusting.
    Still stalling time.
    Stilling my mind.
    Stalling my will.
    Stealing my steel will.
    My steeled wheels stall.
    My mind still rushing.
    Stalls stills and stops.
    Still rusting.
    My wheelchair of steel.
    ~
    Namaste

    DN – 05/03/2017

    Like

      • Hey Victo,

        My pleasure. Thank you for always writing so inspiringly.

        Should all Physicians in America ever be of ‘one voice one vision’ insisting on radical change and betterment for all, one wonders how loud that voice would be and what changes it might bring about?

        Hoping Monday posted the beginning of an awesome week through your front door.

        Take care.

        Namaste πŸ™‚

        DN

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Tough question and words, Doc. I don’t think there is a blanket answer or solution. Everyone’s relationships as they approach this decision are different so naturally, the way they handle their “guilt” is measured or felt accordingly. But that’s not always the case, is it. Even when the person in need never did the right thing, the person who is now responsible for their needs, still feels guilty.
    Very tough position to be placed in.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is so powerful. It helps me deal with three recent experiences. “Helps” because you have identified a a common feeling, and you see its implications in everyday but also poetic terms. That last line,so important. (partly because of the isolation factor, but more significant– for me anyway — is the other part of the image, the birds pecking at his liver. Ugh.)

    I just found this essay, which made me think of you:

    https://aeon.co/essays/medicine-and-literature-two-treatments-of-the-human-condition?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=5a7d0c3063-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_03_06&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-5a7d0c3063-69467493

    , know how busy you are, so I am not suggesting that time spent reading this will make a difference to you, at least not right now. I liked it because I’ve always thought that doctors’ days are so deeply felt that some kind of art (real art) could almost naturally flow from them.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I know the feeling. At one point you hope your loved one will get on with life again.

    When you hit your own breaking point you can choose: bear the pain or walk away and whatever choice you make, no one has the moral high ground. You also have your own life to live…

    Like

  14. Pingback: How true these words are when we come close to the end of our tether. | Thoughts by Mello-Elo

  15. Pingback: Writing Links…3/13/17 – Where Genres Collide

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