The older I get, the heavier become my deepest regrets. I find myself making amends now, as often as I can: I do not want to die with the added regret of words unspoken. This is a story of a woman I met recently who must have waited too long… Poetry has never been my strong suit, but I have added – at the very end – my own plea for forgiveness…
Whenever I visit my Mom and my step-father in the nursing home, as clean as it is, it always smells like pee. Not like a baby’s pee-filled diaper: this is stronger; older; a forbidden smell that somehow embarrasses me for them. Grown-ups aren’t supposed to have accidents like little babies but clearly, most of these grown-ups do. I can’t help but wonder how their younger, more lucid selves would feel about me, a perfect stranger, noticing these private, embarrassing accidents they have had.
When I was a child, our church children’s choir used to go to this same nursing home to sing to the residents. A large group of white-haired seniors would be waiting for us in the big sitting room, in their wheel chairs and their rocking chairs. It was often difficult to tell which of them were men and which were women. They were all so thin or their skin was so loose that identifying characteristics such as breasts or Adam’s apples were too camouflaged for their sex to be identified with any real assurance. While we sang, some of them would smile and clap and later, many of the smilers would gently hug us and caress our cheeks if we approached them.
Others, though, would drool and stare off into some distant corner of the room. Sometimes they made odd noises and moved their hands and arms in jerky little motions. The nurses who worked there would always talk to these silent ones in exaggeratedly loud voices, as if somehow trying to make up for their silence by being loud enough for both of them.
As a child, I was always afraid that the silent droolers would touch me. I had a horror of those long, bony fingers grabbing hold of my fresh, pink hands and somehow… infecting me with that same terrible loose-skinned boniness.
As an adult, the mother in me has come to profoundly understand that these people are mostly just vulnerable little children trapped in old person’s bodies. When I visit my Mom, I take the time, now, to say a cheerful hello when I walk through the door; to look each person in the eye as I greet them. Even the droolers.
One day, as I was on my way to my Mom’s room, a woman in a wheelchair – clearly in the later stages of dementia – reached out to me as I went past. I stopped, as my hand instinctively reached for her own.
“I’m so sorry!!” she wept, tears spilling down her cheeks. “I’m so sorry! Do you think she knows? Does she know?”
I felt my own eyes fill. I knelt down and took her hands in both of my own. “Oh, she knows,” I assured her. “Don’t you worry, she knows.”
She stared at me, eyes full of hope. “She knows?” she asked in wonder.
“I’m sure of it,” I lied.
She stopped crying and went on her way, temporarily comforted. I had no doubt that this was a conversation she has had with many people.
I have often thought of the mysterious ‘she’ we were talking about. And I fervently hope that ‘she’ does, indeed, know. I have a ‘she’ myself, you see, and I will never be able to tell her how sorry I am.
I hope she knows…
I have thought of you pretty much every day for the past 38 years
I wish I could tell you how very sorry I am
I wish I could be sure you hear me now.
Not a day goes by that I do not wonder about you
Where you are
If you are well
If I could be granted one wish
It would be the knowledge that
you have forgiven the unforgivable
You are in my heart
You are safe there now
“Too late; too late,” I can almost hear you whisper…
Patti Moore Wilson/ © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com