I sit and watch the old woman breathing hard and sometimes grunting and wonder what she is dreaming about. After all, at 82 she has seen many things and I can only imagine the changes she has seen and the hardships she has faced. Raised on a tobacco farm with a mule, two if they had a good year the year before, she helped plow up the hard winter frozen dirt. Turning it over to be fertilized so the sun could brings its nutrients to the surface. She may be dreaming of the first Ferris Wheel that came to this one-horse town. The first time she paid her nickle and stopped on the very top of the world and could see forever. Perhaps she dreams nothing at all.
She fell last night. They keep her so drugged up she doesn't know night from day, up from down, yet somehow she got up and fell. They rushed her to the hospital and it took 5 stitches to close the head wound with nothing for the pain. So she sleeps the sleep of the dead. She does not know she is in a nursing...,wait.., an Assisted Living Facility (wouldn't want to be un-PC) yet, but when she awakes, if she awakes, she is going to be mad. Mad at my wife, mad at her daughter, mad at me and the world yet she will recognize no one and her wraith could just as easily be directed at the nearest wall. She will never leave this place. Not walking anyway. Not in a wheelchair. Only on a gurney and the gurney only goes one way.
I have known this woman for over 20 years. It was hate at first sight on her part. She thought I broke up her daughters marriage and destroyed the happy home of her son-in-law and grandson who she loved and still loves more than anyone else in the family. Yes, he was the Apple of her Eye and I ruined it for her. She did not know the marriage had died long before I came around and they were living a lie. It would not have mattered if she had know. She was born at a time when women stayed with their husbands regardless of how they were treated or supported. It was death 'till you part in her world and I destroyed it it. I was the enemy, for a very long time.
In time though, I could tell that while she still didn't like me, she respected me because I did something her beloved son-in-law never did. I worked and supported her daughter and grandson and they never wanted for anything. A begrudged respect I think, but respect none the less. In time, after she found out the ex abused drugs and treated her daughter and grandson terribly, she even came to like me. After all, I do grow on people, just ask my mom.
I watched this woman get up everyday and go to work in a sewing plant, never, ever late and never missing a day. The only thing I ever saw her splurge on was her hair. Every Saturday for as long as I have known her, and my wife says for as long as she can remember, she has her hair fixed at the same place, by the same woman, the same way. A beehive hairdo that is mostly hairspray and she sleeps in a hair-net to keep it perfect.
She also had to sleep on her back so as not to mess her hair up and she is laying that way now. But something is wrong. The hair is wrong. When she fell, blood flew everywhere. The floor, the bed, her clothes but worse of all, her hair. The nurses aids tied her in a wheelchair, took her to the shower and washed her hair and the bee-hive is now gone. Left is a woman that weights a 100 lbs, with a big white bandage over her right eye and bruises all over her body. I wouldn't tell anyone, but even a tough old bird like her has to die sometime and I don't know if this woman, who has as much pride as anyone I have every known, can live in the unknown. I do know this. I couldn't.