Sunday, January 17, 2010

Life in the slow lane

Life moves along in the slow lane at Mom’s nursing home—sometimes too slow for an impatient Baby Boomer such as me.

On a brilliantly sunny day two summers ago, I was taking Mom outdoors. I was most anxious to get her outside the stuffy locked facility where she and her fellow Alzheimer’s residents spent their days into the broad embrace of Mother Nature.

But the hallway near the chapel narrows. And on this day it was blocked by a slow-moving resident with a ball cap perched on his head. He was propelling his wheelchair as quickly as he could, but not fast enough for me.

“Excuse me, Sir, could we get around you?” I inquired, nudging up close and getting ready to pass. I was polite on the outside, but inside I thought: “Come on, old man, move it along!”

“Of course,” the man seemed to say, craning his head sideways to get a glimpse of me, a slight smile resting on his lips. At that moment I looked down at the floor and discovered to my shock:

The man had only one leg. His right foot literally danced over the carpet, pulling him ahead inch by determined inch. The half-trouser on his left leg was pinned neatly and rested on the wheelchair seat.

Mom, asleep, did not notice my shame. We carefully manoeuvred around the man at the place near the chapel where the hallway widens.

A few weeks later at noontime, I spotted this man again. Half his face was covered by an eye patch. Presumably he had had some surgery. But his eyesight was good enough for him to ease forward. His right foot set the pace for a slow, yet purposeful journey, tapping on the carpeted hallway as if it were tapping to a tune.

He wheeled past the small placard placed on a table in front of the chapel. It read, “God’s eternal peace to our dear residents” with the four residents who had passed on the previous month: Mary Ann on the 5th, Doris on the 25th, Mary on the 27th and Louise on the 30th.

He didn’t look up at any one or anything, such was his single-mindedness to join his companions at lunch, escaping his own sober thoughts for a thin slice of time.

By Ron Cooper

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