Music Fills the Soul
Over the years I had come to dread this weekly chore and today, as always, it filled me with such sadness. Tuesdays, on my day off from work, I would drive to the nursing home to visit my mother. There were times when Mom would look at me with her crystal clear blue eyes and say, “Do you know when Beth is coming?” “I AM Beth,” I would exclaim, over and over again when
I am a primary-care doctor who makes house calls in and around Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Most of my visits are in neighborhoods, but today my rounds start at a house located down a dirt road a few miles outside of town.
Gingerly, I cross the front walk; Mrs. Edgars told me that she killed a rattlesnake in her flowerbed last year.
She is at the door, expecting my visit. Mr. Edgars sits on the
How It Was When You Stopped Knowing Me
When I cannot help remembering, I recall
that the end of your memory arrived
in a Texas spring so wet it churned the rivers,
ripped white frame houses from the banks
and sent them rampaging on the currents
like Pamplona bulls turned loose into the streets.
There were bridges on those rising rivers, and
I cannot help remembering
Around the Bend
“You see, the world is coming to an end,”
she says. We’re on the porch; our rockers creak.
Tomorrow vanishes around a bend.
For fifty years she’s been a family friend
whom I should really visit once a week,
now that the world is coming to an end.
I reach out; put my hand over her hand.
We sit and for a moment do not speak.
A rapid shadow slides around the bend
Visiting the dementia unit of a nursing home is never easy.
First off, you have to find your patient amid the assemblage of people–mostly women–seated in wheelchairs, recliners, wingbacks, sofas and assorted walkers, or wandering around.
Then, you must make yourself known to the person you’ve found. Here’s where the harder questions arise: How can I introduce myself and convey my role–a hospice chaplain–to someone who has outlasted language? Is my state of
I sit with three demented women in their nineties.
Three after-dinner conversations fly,
banging into each other,
drifting off course.
Aunt Sylvia insists she must call her mother.
Edith announces she works for her father.
Mimi declares she has two daughters.
I grab onto this shooting star.
“Where do your daughters live?” I ask.
I was cool on the way to the lawyer, we’d talked it all through, no problem.
So why am I remembering the old kauri house where the wiring was dodgy
and I held my breath as she flicked the switch to turn off the power? How can
I do it without her, flick off the switch of life, decide on her fate or my own,
without consultation, alone? What if she goes and
Mementos and Memories
Delores sits tilted to the right in a worn wheelchair, a curtain separating her from a sleeping roommate.
She is wearing a blue blouse stained with something orange, perhaps Jell-O, and white pants and white socks. A worn gold wedding band adorns the fourth finger of her left hand. Her hair is a shiny gray, perfectly coiffed,
I can sense the question before it comes.
“How are you doing?”
I want to answer, How do you think I’m doing, with my husband morphing into a ghost? I’m dying here. But thanks for asking.
Instead I clench my fists and deliver a cheerful response: “I’m good.” Which is, of course, a lie.
My husband is demented.
I cannot say these words out loud. Pushed to
My mother’s mother was more a force of nature than a person. Chablis in hand, stockings bagging a little over her solid, practical navy pumps, she delivered her opinions without the slightest sugar-coating. She used words like “simply” and “absolutely” a lot. “He is quite simply the worst mayor we’ve ever had.” “She had absolutely no business having four children.” My cousins and I all listened and quaked, hoping the wrath would not
At a recent religious service I attended with Maman, my 87-year-old mother, I watched her fumbling attempts to find hymn number 123, “Spirit of Life,” in the hymnal. I held my book up, opened to the appropriate page, so that we both could sing from it.
She glanced up momentarily, tightened her lips, hunched forward and resumed turning pages, finally arriving at the song when the congregation was singing the second verse,
Ronna L. Edelstein
When I was six, my family and I spent a week in Atlantic City. I loved the Boardwalk with its saltwater-taffy aroma and colorful sights, but I feared the pier that jutted far out into the Atlantic. One moonless night, my big brother bet me a bag of taffy that I couldn’t walk to the pier’s end by myself. Never one to back down, I accepted his bet. But the farther out