Another Visit with Mr.R.

The rain was pouring as I ran across the parking lot of the convalescent home. I headed into the lobby where several residents sat in wheelchairs watching me as I came through the door. Two young women behind the front desk were talking about the weather when I stopped to ask them to direct me to Mr. R.’s room. I did as they told me. I went down the hall, found the elevator on the right, and took it to the second floor, then another right and his room should be right in front of me. I didn’t see his room but I did see him. He was one of about ten elderly men and women in wheelchairs who lined the hall. The last time I saw Mr. R. he was in a short-term rehab facility. When I went to visit him there, I found him in the midst of having a stroke. Now he was here at this convalescent home sitting in a reclining chair with an untouched lunch tray next to him. A blanket was scrunched up on his left side. His pajama bottoms were ones I had seen on him so many times when I went to his apartment to make a home visit. Today they were pushed up and his scrawny legs dangled off  the edge of his wheelchair.

Mr. R. was sleeping as I approached him. I called to him and his eyes fluttered open. He took my hand and held it close to his chest. I heard him whisper “I’m not good Chris”.  He’s hard of hearing so I had to lean close to talk to him. I tell him how I miss our Tuesday morning visits. I ask him if he is eating and he replies no. “Would you like a drink?” I ask him and he shakes his head “yes” in reply. I hold the milk carton so he can sip the straw that sticks out of it. He begins drinking and soon finishes it. I decide to really push the limits by filling a spoon with ziti and sauce and offer it to him. I apologize that the sauce isn’t as good as the sauce his mother used to make but after a few bites he tells me that it wasn’t that bad. A nurse stops by and asks how I know Mr.R. I tell her that I was his visiting nurse for the past two years. She asks me what he was like at home and I tell her that he was a great guy with a big heart. I tell her how he sent a neighbor out to buy me a mother’s day card. I tell her that he sat quietly in a recliner surrounded by photos of his family. He loved our visits and visits from his big Italian family.

I have to leave since I was due at another patient’s house in a few minutes. Fortunately, my next patient lives down the street. My visit with Mr. R. was an unofficial one since he is no longer my patient. (We don’t see patients in the hospital or nursing facilities) I think of him often especially when Tuesday morning comes along. I lean down now and give him a kiss on his forehead. “I’m praying for you” I say to him. He tells me that he prays for me to. He closes his eyes as he lets go of my hand. It’s still raining out as I exit the building. The rain camoflages the tears that well up in my eyes as I get in my car and leave.

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