Sunday, February 26, 2006

Memory Lane.

Today I went to visit my granny. She lives in one of those permanent care facilities. A hospice. I guess you could just call it "A Place To Die". It smells strongly of medication. Also, of bodily fluids and deodourizers. That is once you walk into the lobby. First you take the elevator and ooze disinfectant into your hands. Push the button to open the door, that is locked and coded from the inside so the residents can't get out. The code is 1-2-3. Three numbers. The first numbers you learn, those simple numbers. They are numbers the residents learnt first, and lost last. These are the numbers keeping them from the real world. It is not a jail. The walls are nicely painted. There is a television. The nurses are nice enough. You can leave accompanied by a family member.

When you enter the lobby, the smell hits you. That is accompanied by the people. The youngest 50, maybe. The oldest could be 80. You can't really tell thier age. Wheelchairs, walkers, stretchers, swollen feet. They shuffle. The one thing all of them have in common is thier speed. Everything is slow. They don't usually look at you. They don't really look at anything. The nurses welcome us with steady gazes. We aren't rare. But visiters are not frequent. The aura of the lobby, is depressing. No red walls or homely fires can stop it. The smell of the people, the looks of thier faces. It makes you think about life, about lack of it, about living. We walk down the hallway. It is ironically called "Memory Lane". There are no memories. The memories were lost with voices, thoughts. They do not have voices, no thoughts. Therefore they can't remember them. We stop at my granny's room. She shares it with a woman named Marjorie. Marjorie is beyond thought. She lies on her bed. She is not still. Her mouth moves open and closed, not rhythmically, but in spasms. Her feet bounce across the bed. She has blue eyes. They stare. Not at the ceiling, not at anything else. The radio is on.

Behind the curtain is my granny. Sometimes I wonder why she is there. Most of the times I know why she is there. My grandma has thoughts, and memories. She speaks. She may have dementia and memory loss, but her conversation is there. My mum and I think she's there because of her behaviour. She doesn't get along well with the nurses and residents, she treats them with curtness and hostility. For all that I am ashamed of, she's a sweet woman with a slightly sad life but good intentions. My mum likes when I am there, because she doesn't complain about being in "A Jail". After being there, I think I might empathize. She kisses me on the cheek. Dry, smooth, existent. The nurse enters. She looks different, but I like to think of her as the same nurse as last time. She is there to feed Marjorie. She sings as the last one does. Old love songs, sung by crooning men play. She sings a step ahead, not knowing all the words. She doesn't really sing cheerfully. She sings as the last one did. To forget about her tasks. She has a pretty good voice. Maybe once she dreamt of being a singer. Maybe she just started after she began caring for old people.

I will comb my granny's hair. Thin, like strands of silver. I wave the brush along, the little child inside of me is afraid it will all fall off. Ever so gently. A woman, can't be older then 75 (although I never know) enters the room. Usually they enter the room. Walk around. Then leave, a bit like ghosts. This time she half-hugs, half-shakes my mums hand. She mumbles something. I can't hear it. But it wouldn't matter, because it is not words. Somehow, this is her language. I mentioned earlier my granny was hard to get along with. "Who are you?" she whispers loudly. The woman does not know. She mumbles, and she leaves...

We are going to the atrium for supper.
The atrium is a room, full of tropical plants. It has a high ceiling made of glass. Inside a cage are little yellow and blue birds. You can hear thier chirps perfectly. I sip my Apple flavoured tea, savouring the aura of this room. Supper is over. We visit the birds. They look delicate, fluttering around thier cage. Chirping things we can't hear. They are trapped. My granny likes them a lot. Up the endless elevators, back to Memory Lane.

We are back in the lobby. We move down the hallway, into grandma's room. She doesn't want to be here. She wants to visit outside. I'm not sure she will ever visit with any of these people, but she doesn't know that. Or maybe she just has hope. We go to the lobby. We take a tour of the tables, try to find someone to talk with. My granny is determined. No one speaks. We leave to the room again. She is still determined, so we turn once again. I need to leave. I can't stand it here anymore. The woman at the table on the end, alone has her head on the plastic surface. Face down. I asked my mother if she was okay. She is fine. She does this. And after a while, she will lift her head and scream. Babble and scream. The language no one can hear. Her head goes down again. After a while, my grandma say, in an ancient voice "I want to go home". I'm not sure what home is, but wherever it is, I'm sure it is beautiful. We drop grandma off at a table, I need to get home. The people clutch at each other, grab things, and look off into nothing as we leave. I don't think I looked back. We leave for our home. Our lives.

I think about it a lot. Living life. Living it to the fullest. You see those peoples blank stares, and wonder what they are thinking, if anything. I would be dreaming of my life before this lobby, and these people and the smell. Where feelings were coherent and we were free, and loved. Life is precious. Take care of yourself. Do things you want to do. Pick the best path, and never forget to look back. Don't take things for granted. You don't want to end up in that room.

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