I thought the worst thing had already happened. But I was wrong.
I thought maybe it was the radiation burns, or the surgery, or the second surgery, or having to move into a nursing home. But it wasn't any of those things. As a matter of fact, the worst thing didn't even happen to Rico. It didn't even happen to me. It happened to Gladys.
The day after Rico moved into the care center for rehab, two ladies were admitted for long term care - this was their new home.
I ran into the first one as I was bringing sandwiches in for a family dinner. She'd wheeled her way out to atrium all alone. "Can you help me find my car?" she asked.
Not that it mattered. Before I could answer, a PCA came to swoop her back to her room. "I need to get to my car," she shouted. "I need to go home."
"No," the PCA reminded her, "you live here now."
"No, please no."
"Yes. Yes, you do."
That was not the worst thing.
I continued toward Rico's wing, where we were sitting down to a family dinner. He was surrounded by love - three kids, his wife, his two childhood BFF's who'd come from Florida and New York, and Punk's girlfriend. He had home cooked food, good conversation, and most important, he was weaned enough from medication that he could enjoy it. That was not the worst thing either - it was probably the best.
The worst part came as I was taking things back to the car.
A woman we'll call Gladys, was sitting in her wheelchair next to the nurses station. "I need help. Somebody help me! Please!" Her voice was frail, but she could still muster a good shout. It was late, and the nurses were making rounds with medication. There was no one to hear her.
"Can I help you?" I asked.
"I need the boss of this place, are you the boss?"
"No, I don't even work here, but I'll help you if I can. What do you need."
"I need to find the person in charge here, because I need to find my way h-h-home."
I knew where we were headed with this, so I just knelt next to her. She took my hand and I asked her, "Where is home?"
Tears fell from her eyes, she looked into mine and said, "I don't know."
We were quiet for a minute before she tugged on my hand and said, "I know people think I'm crazy, but I'm not. I just want to go home. I don't belong here. Do you belong here?"
"No. No I don't."
The nurse came by and offered to wheel her to the TV, but it didn't stop the tears. The nurse explained that her daughters dropped her off that morning that she was going to stay there a while. She told me where her room was and I took her in. Gladys showed me pictures of her family we talked for a while. I didn't want to leave her, she didn't want to let go of my hand. But eventually we said goodbye.
When I left for the night, Gladys was back at the nurses station, just sitting. She was so sad, so lost so scared. It was the worst thing.
Seeing someone's heart break is the worst thing.
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