Sunday, May 4, 2014
Stranger in an Empty Chair
"Girl in Green Chair" by Michael Carson
While reality hums and reverberates with a melody entranced in a state of constant flux, I find myself in a place that seems to make the world stand still. Just one single harmony can be heard in my surroundings which seem insulated from the world's dull roar outside these four walls. So is my concentration that it matters little what else is happening in life's periphery. The current demanding needs of the man I care for are the only concerns that rise into view.
Simple things matter the most in his world. Not only having something to eat but having something to eat that he can chew. Not only having something to drink but having something to drink in a container that isn't too full and easy to spill. It is important for him to enjoy his customary daily glass of fresh squeezed orange juice that accompanies his pills and perhaps just as much needed is the hug I give him when coming and leaving. Sometimes the only human contact he gets for the entire day.
He asks me if I can see her.
"Who?" I inquire.
"The stranger in the chair. Its a woman with brown hair to her shoulders. She's looking at me." He answers, his eyes getting larger as he is apparently surprised at the sight behind me.
I turn around and see what I expected to see. An empty chair. I assure him that it is just him and I in the room. That what he is seeing is not there. "Bill, close your eyes and take a deep breath." I wait for him to do so. " Tell yourself that she isn't real. Bill, you have an infection that is causing you to see things that aren't there." I don't know what else to say. I have no training in dealing with anything like this and he doesn't as well. We are just two souls caught up together in quite the quandary.
I place my hand on his and he squeezes it. He is frightened and I can't blame him for that. I would be too. He tells me that early that morning there were two men that were behind him yelling. They were throwing balled up socks at him and one even hit him with a shoe. To him, it had felt so real.
Two days before we had went to the doctor's with one another. The visit was a spontaneous one and had arisen right after he had confided to me that he was seeing things. He had been for awhile but was afraid that if he had told someone they would have immediately put him in the hospital and would have thought he was crazy. He wasn't sure what he was seeing, if it was in his head or maybe even ghosts or something. I told him I was so glad he shared this with me and that I was certain there was a natural and physical explanation to what he was experiencing. He was on new medication, maybe that was it. Regardless, he couldn't be helped if we didn't seek help and things would undoubtedly get worse if we didn't. I immediately cancelled the appointment I had after him and took him to his doctor's.
I was relieved we had went as when we were there we were informed that he had a raging urinary tract infection and that that could very well explain his hallucinations as well as the lack of appetite and nausea he had been experiencing. Then the doctor dropped the bomb.
"Since he has been seeing things and is just going to be starting antibiotics we are afraid the infection might have gotten into his blood. Since he lives alone he is going to have to go to the hospital."
I looked over at Bill and saw a mask of shock and dread spread over his visage. I knew that his greatest fear was to be hospitalized. Sometimes its hard to get out of the hospital when you go in at his age, especially when certain close family members were eager to have you in there and stay in there. Not out of concern but out of greed.
Not hesitating I jumped in. "What if someone stayed the night with him?"
The doctor looked at me. "Well, then he could go home."
I had turned to Bill, "I could stay with you tonight...That's if you wouldn't mind." Relief visibly expressed itself on his features, his shoulders loosening and a smile forming on his face. "Of course I wouldn't mind!"
"Great. " I turned to the doctor. "I will stay with him tonight. I'll make sure he's taken care of."
The doctor smiled. I think she was just as delighted as we were that he was going to be going home, having had known him for years herself. As I was driving him back to his house I thought about how I was to explain this to my husband and kids. After dropping him off I raced back home to collect my things; a change of clothes, my pjs and toiletries and my Gita for reading after he went to bed that night. I explained the situation to my husband who unfortunately was less than understanding but had little choice as having had already promised the doctor I would stay with Bill I had no intentions of breaking such an agreement. My kids, however, were excited to spend the night over my parents which made my sudden departure from our Friday night routine a little easier.
That night I placed a home cooked meal before Bill while we settled down to watch , "Some Like It Hot" with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. I smiled. I was happy to see him happy. Sitting comfortably in his favorite chair with good warm food and content with the anticipation of viewing one of his favorite movies in the company of another. I cringed at the thought of him lying in some sterile hospital bed with strangers all around being woken up at all hours, disoriented and feeling alone.
When it was finally time for me to go upstairs I made sure he was situated in bed and made my way to the room I would be sleeping in. I was in his former bedroom he used to sleep in before they put a bed down in his living for him for easier access. Pulling the covers back I slipped in with my japa mala and Gita turning on the small light on the table by the bed. Watching the moon outside the window I began to chant. Growing restless and wanting to maintain some concentration I flipped through pictures in my Gita of Krishna as I chanted his names. Finally, fatigue took over and I lay down and fell asleep.
I was awoken at 5 am by shouting. I ran downstairs and saw the door to the entryway was open. Swiftly moving to its entrance I saw Bill, with the front door open, shouting. I ran to him, putting my hands on his arm and guided him away from the door, closing and locking it. He doesn't walk well, having Parkinson's, and it took some effort to help him back up the stairs and into bed. I was glad when he finally closed his eyes, with his covers warmly over him, and settled back down. This experience increased my worry towards his situation. Its one thing seeing things that aren't there from the safety of your own bed, it's another thing entirely to get up and act on what you see, putting yourself at risk of falling down stairs.
Well, here I am now. Things are uncertain for Bill but I am hopeful that his condition will improve. No matter what happens, though, there is a place in my heart where my love blossoms for this man who I find endearing. I plan on staying by his side as much as is possible through this chapter in his life.
Thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Please consider leaving them in the comments section. Thank you.