Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Miss Marilyn

This is a short story I wrote last year.

The halls were cold and barren, giving life to nothing, not even pictures or art. Corners felt lonely without the company of plants or fake trees. The lobby produced vintage couches and tables, but a modern area carpet - quite the contradiction. Vintage couches for vintage-aged folks finding themselves in the mess of modern times. The last place they ever imagined spending the last days of their lives was a nursing home.

I walked down those halls that day, noticing the lack of fragrances or colognes filling the air. I guess old people don’t wear them. My grandfather once wore Old Spice, but he wasn’t in a nursing home. I’ve heard that the one thing people who live to be 100 years old have in common is that they all never wore watches. I took of my watch and went in search of Miss Marilyn.

She was never in the same room. I guess the nurses had to keep busy somehow, or at least distract themselves from their urine infested breathing. They liked to play games, I thought to myself as I completed the circle, right back to where I started. It pained me to visit Miss Marilyn, and walking in those circles, clueless, didn’t help.

I took a deep breath, and paced counterclockwise back into the maze. Down the hall, I could hear a man shouting loudly. Upon discovering the culprit, for nursing homes are normally full of whispers and mumblings, tears started to well up in my eyes.

“Iffff…..I haddd……a million…..DAWLERS,” he sung. “I’d buy me…a…new….wife.” The African-American looked to be in his nineties, fragile, but full of spirit. Besides, he’d buy a new wife. He attempted another round of singing, slowly raising himself from the wheelchair, but his strength escaped him as he suddenly hit the seat. No one was in the lobby to hear him. He didn’t care. I couldn’t bare the thought of all the lonely, and seemingly ignored, people.

“Hey Marilyn,” I whispered softly in her ear. She was resting, like always. There was nothing - no response. Her eyes did open, though, but they did nothing after I waved my hands directly in front of them.

Miss Marilyn had a million pictures surrounding her. They were everywhere. On the window sill, tacked to the walls, and laying in piles on the nightstand, where they remained untouched for several years. Reality set in once the feeding tube monitor buzzed.

She was Miss Lewis County back in her youth. A smart, loving woman, she moved to New Jersey after getting married and then gave birth two children. She was a school teacher and horrific photographer, but the multitude of pictures she captured made up for it. The pictures were always of her children.

I’ve heard many stories about Marilyn. She is a corny and stubborn woman with charm to win over the most skeptical. Its probably this charm that draws me to visit her every once in a while. I usually show up unannounced, for Miss Marilyn doesn’t talk anymore. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 51. Her son was in high school, and daughter in the 6th grade. Meredith took on many of her mother’s attributes, and that was another reason I went to the nursing home, for Meredith. What a tragedy, I thought.

I told Miss Marilyn what her son had been up to, graduating from college and all, recounting ridiculous stories that would have embarrassed her. No response.

I soon grew tired. Visits usually lasted about fifteen minutes anyway. I took a few steps back, turned to look at her, unaware of the movement wetting my cheeks.

I prayed a quick prayer, retraced my steps, and kissed her on the forehead.

“Goodbye Mom,” I said. “I love you.”

No comments: