Thursday, September 8, 2011
It's Hard to Hide When You Just Don't Care
“She’s always like this,” the chubby woman shrugged her shoulders and looked away. She finally arrived to see her mother, though the old woman had arrived several hours ago. I looked at her, hair perfectly arranged in a curly mullet, nails recently manicured, fingers clinking with shiny bands and jewels, and a smart little designer bag on her shoulder. You would never guess they were related, Mrs. Stuck-inthe70’s and her mother, frail Mrs. Stuck, the poor thing delirious from the fever, thrashing her weak limbs as best she could, wearing nothing but a crumpled hospital gown and an adult diaper. She moaned and soiled herself. Her daughter raised an eyebrow and primly stepped out behind the curtain. She didn’t want to be there when the smell hit.
We cleaned Mrs. Stuck the best we could, holding her hot little body still as we wiped her and changed all her linens. When I made the list of belongings, I checked her body for anything I might list. The hospital gown and diaper were not worth listing. I checked her left hand- I take it as a sign of someone being well cared-for if she still has a wedding band on, if nothing else. Nothing. Although it might be taken off for safe-keeping, I like to think that in whatever state of mind, if a person looks down at that band on their hand that had been there for so long, they might still feel something. I felt sad writing “no belongings with patient.”
I also notice the general condition of the areas around the eyes, lips, nose and teeth. The smell of a person, the presence of wounds, areas that are crusted over, dry, inflamed, otherwise abnormal tell me about the level of hygiene at any given institution. At least Mrs. Stuck was in a good nursing home- she seemed otherwise clean. Mrs. Stuck-inthe70's must be paying a lot for wherever her mother must be living, in money, not necessarily emotional support.
Mrs. Stuck-inthe70’s poked her head in again, to say that she had to go, fingers clutching at her rhinestone-studded iPhone. She left the room once more and as the scent of her faded, so did my annoyance.
Maybe it’s not that she doesn’t care- maybe she just gave up a long time ago. Maybe it’s healthier this way for her, to be able to let go, though I think it’s totally disrespectful to “let go” before Mrs. Stuck was actually gone. In a time not far from now, I could imagine her crying crocodile tears at her mother’s funeral. Too little, too late.