Saturday, May 19, 2012
Forgiving is not forgetting...
Riley is now at the nursing home and resting in a sparse room with bare white walls. There is window that looks out on the courtyard so he does have a view of the outside world. I’ve taken in a balloon bouquet, but the room still seems empty and cold. I thought my readers might be willing to help me brighten the place up a bit, so I’ve made arrangements for mail to be delivered to Riley at the home. If you want to help me turn those white walls into colorful expressions of thoughts and prayers, please send cards to:
c/o Kindred Healthcare
901 South Halstead Blvd.
Elizabeth City, NC 27909-6920
Today I’ll be going to visit and read to him from “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame. It was read to Riley and his brother when they were very small children. I think this might be comforting for him. If his mother were here, I’m sure this is what she would read to her little boy.
When I visited yesterday, Riley was actually looking a bit better. His face had filled out a bit and his complexion was better. I have been told that dying people do start to look better as they reach the end. I suppose its nature’s way of giving us a better memory of the last days.
Riley barely acknowledged my presence when I entered the room. He opened his eyes only for a second and promptly closed them again. I waited. A nurse came in and took his vitals. Then another gave him a bath. The bath woke him up. He was not happy that he was being bathed. His speech has degenerated to mumblings so I couldn’t make out the words, but I knew he was protesting. When she was done, she asked “Now… doesn’t that feel better?” I was sure I could understand him saying, “If you say so.”
Now that he was awake, I tried to make some light conversation. I mentioned that his room was nice and the bed looked comfortable. I told him I had talked to the staff and everyone seemed competent and caring. He mumbled something and opened only one of his eyes.
His nurse came back in and gave him some medicine. I’m not sure what it was, but he didn’t protest. He has difficulty swallowing pills, so the medicine was in liquid form. Before she left, Riley asked her for a drink. She said she would bring in some water. He clearly said NO followed by more mumbling. I’m sure he was asking for vodka and soda. The nurse told him “I’ll check on that” and left the room.
The thought occurred to me… why not let him have a little vodka? He can only get down a tiny bit at a time. He is clearly dying so there is no hope for sobriety. If it keeps him calm to have a few drops of vodka, what would be the harm? But, I kept quiet. I felt sure there was some kind of law or something preventing the precious liquid ever getting to Riley’s lips. Then again – I looked back at him and didn’t really see much agitation in his face. He didn’t need the vodka to keep him calm. Now I’m thinking is was some kind of “Pavlov’s Dog” reaction to just being awake and alive.
I’m not sure if “calmness” was what I was witnessing. I think it was more of a sense of resignation. He is out of options, out of choices, he is resigned to being in that bed and unable to do for himself. I don’t think he likes it, but is resolved in the knowledge that this is how it must be. I’m not sure if he has accepted the fact that his death is imminent. But, I’m sure he knows that this is not what he expected his last days to be like. He must be wondering – where’s the jealous husband chasing him with a gun and shooting him as he is jumping over a fence after catching him with the wife? Lying in a hospital bed is so mundane, boring, and without an interesting story for his legacy.
Besides reading to Riley, I will offer him my forgiveness for anything he may have done in the past that hurt me. I will also ask for his forgiveness for anything I may have done that hurt him. I will tell him that the kids love him and miss him. I will lie to him and tell him that his oldest son forgives him for the past. I will do or say whatever I have to do to let him depart earth as peacefully as possible.
I’m not so sure I really can forgive him or that his son will ever forgive him. Maybe in time the good memories will overtake the bad now that the bad will stop repeating over and over. I long since grieved the loss of the man who was my husband. All of this just feels like a formality. I am sad. I’m sad to think about the life Riley could have had if he had taken a different path. But, what is the point in that? It was what it was and it is what it is.
at 7:41 AM