Her head was spinning. How could her sons have done this? Was it because they thought she was dying?
Willamena felt every bit of her sixty-nine-year-old body, but the little girl inside was hurting. Or was it rage?
Memories of her recent journey to the hospital weren’t clear, but she did remember her Tuesday morning. But according to the nurse who came in to adjust her IV, it was now Friday. But though she remembered Tuesday, February 11th, it was now Friday, March 4th.
The pictures on her phone made her cry. Not just a few tears falling down her face, but a torrent of hot coals in her heart. She couldn’t stop looking, though the pain in her heart was crushing.
Her oldest son, Richard, sent her pictures of the storage unit they’d moved her belongings into. Worse, they’d moved everything out of her apartment and canceled her lease.
In essence, she was homeless.
But worse than that, Richard apologized for dropping one of the boxes. And it wasn’t just any box. It was the box they’d packed her Elvis Presley plates in. Every single one of them was broken. Smashed into more than twenty pieces for each dish, the collection was gone.
Maybe it was silly. Or perhaps she shouldn’t care so much for mere things – but those plates were hers. Building the collection spread over several years, and her brother and sister contributed to those birthdays and the Christmas seasons. However, the majority of the plates were ordered by her late husband.
Her fascination and crush concerning Elvis was a running joke between them. But so was his fascination with Cher. They were products of the sixties – loving the music and heroes of the era.
And now, only fifteen years after her husband left her to join her mother in Heaven, precious memories were lost.
And it wasn’t only the poor packing of the storage unit that hurt. On top of it all, her boys wanted to send her to a nursing home. They could pretty it up by calling it an ‘Assisted Living Facility,’ but it was a nursing home all the same.
Her greatest fear was that no one would come to visit. Her sister lived across the country, and her brother lived hundreds of miles away in Georgia. The boys had their own lives – and they didn’t include her anymore.
A nurse poked her head in. Willamena’s sobs were audible and reached the hub.
“Oh, sweetie. What’s wrong?”
Willamena’s face contorted with the effort to talk through her tears.
“Oh, you have no idea. It’s so many things.
“My sons want to put me in a nursing home. They just threw my things into a storage unit and moved me out of my apartment. I don’t want to go to a nursing home, but they’ve given me little choice. And oh…"
Her voice trailed off into a wail.
The beautiful features of the young nurse tried to look compassionate, but this was a story she’d heard too many times. It seemed that no one wanted to give up their lives, not the older people being sent off to a place where they didn’t own anything, and not the younger people who didn’t have the time to deal with their aging parents.
Pouring a cup full of water from the pink plastic carafe, she said softly, “Here, honey. Why don’t you take a drink of this and calm down?” With a slight glance at her watch, the slim figure in the blue hospital scrubs sat on the edge of the bed.
“Do you have any brochures from where your sons would like you to live?”
“They’re over there on that cabinet. I can barely look at them. Those places are full of old people. When you look at the photos of people having ‘fun’ at Bingo or any other stupid activities, you don’t see any color in people’s hair.
“I’m not that old. I don’t have hardly any grey, and I don’t color my hair. I shouldn't have to go somewhere like that because I can’t walk, and I’m a bit incontinent.”
Doing her best to hide a smile, the healthcare worker nodded. “Yes, you look young, but you must realize that you need care. The kind of care that your sons can’t give you. Are they married?”
“Oh yeah. And neither of their wives want me to come and live with them. Heaven forbid. I just hope my husband haunts all of them. He would be furious. This isn’t how we taught them to take care of their parents. I always wanted my mother to come and live with us - always. She was sick with cancer, and her stupid husband didn’t know how to care for her. She had no quality of life in the end. And won’t it be the same for me?”
“But there are a lot of people whom you can connect with in a good place. I think you’ll be surprised at the friendships you make and the fun you have – IF you let it happen. I mean, how much fun do you have now? Are you just holed up in your apartment?”
Willamena thought for a long moment before she answered. “Well, yeah, I guess I am. I talk to a lot of my old friends on the phone, along with my brother and sister, but since I have my groceries delivered, I really don’t go anywhere except for doctor’s appointments.”
“See…I know for a fact that they won’t let you just sit in your room. And what I think is the best part no more cooking. All of your meals are served in a dining hall unless you’re sick. I know a lot about the place.
“My own mother is there,” fibbed the nurse.
Intrigued, Willamena wanted to know more, but a thought occurred to her. "But what will I hang on the walls? Elvis won’t be with me. He’s smashed into millions of pieces.”
“Elvis isn’t going anywhere. He’ll have that huge place in your heart you’ve always had.”
A tiny kernel of hope bloomed in Willamena’s heart. “And maybe I can look on the internet and find some plates to replace the ones that were lost. And…I bet my sister will help me.”
A beautiful smile replaced the teary look, and the nurse was able to breathe easier.
“That a girl. You’ve got this. You’ll see. Everything will be okay.”
But it wasn't. A sad look and then a terrified gasp was when then that the alarms went off. Willamena’s heart stopped beating. She wasn’t breathing, and as the room filled with healthcare professionals with the crash cart, it was apparent to the nurse that Willamena couldn’t live without her plates, and she couldn’t live with what she perceived as cruelty from her sons.
The brief smile had been a blip. The older woman’s heart broke.
And with the sound of latex gloves being pulled off, the alarms silenced, Willamena went to join her husband and mother.
“Goodbye, dear. I hope the accommodations are good up there.”