by J. A. Buxton
It took the loss of a lot of brain cells to share Walker with you.
Include the following in your entry: a red ball, a rainy day, and a nursing home. Please bold them to make it easier for the judge to find.
Back in 2003, I spent a week in a rehab center after brain tumor surgery. The place wasn’t only for patients needing physical therapy before going home. The main purpose of the one-floor building was to serve as a nursing home where relatives left elderly men and women to end their lives away from their uncaring families.
After a couple days of helplessly being dependent on staff, I finally was able to convince them to lower the bed rail so I could get out of bed. That long metal railing that trapped me on the bed was a sore point between me and the staff. They wanted it up all the time, while I angrily demanded they keep it down. When I say demanded, that’s exactly what I mean, since I was by no means the nicest of patients.
I shared the room with an elderly woman whom I rarely saw leave her bed. She did get out once and head toward where I was lying in bed. At the foot of my bed, the nearest one to the bathroom, someone had parked my wheelchair. The elderly woman slowly maneuvered herself onto the wheelchair and urinated all over the chair’s cushion. I guess she thought she had made it all the way to the bathroom and did what came naturally. After that, I no longer used the wheelchair to get around.
For balance, since mine still was terrible after the surgery, I decided to use a walker instead. This came with a small red ball on the back two legs since only the front ones had wheels. It shocked me how much I relied on that metal frame even after I came home. It waits now in my spare room for the day, hopefully way in the future, when I might need it again.
Days passed slowly in this rehab/nursing home, and I hated every minute of those days. Well, almost every minute. There was one rainy day when I went outside and sat on a bench all alone. This bit of privacy was rare since there was always either a staff member hovering nearby or an elderly person walking up and down the long corridors.
The parade of these people with their walkers or wheelchairs was sad to watch. With no visitors coming by and nothing to excite any interest, the only activity most had was this aimless walking up and down the hallway between the many rooms. Some even gave up doing this and simply sat in a chair outside their room, most likely blindly staring off into their distant past.
One of the most embarrassing and degrading events for me was having one of the staff give me a sponge bath. They would have me strip and sit on a stool while they scrubbed and then dried me off. I was told this was for safety, since I probably would have hurt myself because of my continued poor balance. Knowing this undoubtedly true fact didn’t make it any easier. I’m a private and independent woman, and losing both of these because of the aftereffect of brain surgery was difficult for me to take.
Even though I hated the week spent there, I knew it wouldn’t be forever. This unfortunately was the future for those elderly people. One day this hit home for me as I guided my faithful companion, the walker, through the large dining room toward the outside patio. Halfway across the room, I spotted an elderly woman. One of the female staff was trying unsuccessfully to comfort her.
“Please, I want to go home,” said the old woman, tears streaming down her wrinkled cheeks. “I don’t belong here. I don’t like it here.” Her voice shook when she begged, “Please call my son so he can come back and take me home.”
I quickly averted my eyes since I felt that woman’s pain and knew there was nothing any of us could do for her. A son she had raised, probably with love, had left her among strangers. It was at this moment the idea for my novel, Home of the Red Fox, came to me.
If I could do nothing for the lonely people I met during that week in the rehab/nursing home, at least I could write about other abandoned elderly people. Instead of sending my characters to a place to die among strangers, I gave them a caring benefactor and a safe haven where they learned they still had a reason to live. I kept hoping during the six months it took to write this story that when I eventually need help there is a William Walker somewhere waiting for me.
At the end of the week, I finally returned to my home and animals. For the next few weeks I hobbled across the road to get the mail leaning on my metal walker. I also probably scared other shoppers when I went to Safeway for groceries. One reason was because the top and right side of my head was shaved; in fact, one rude person said I looked like a Klingon from Star Trek. The second reason I might have inspired fear was I needed to use one of those motorized carts to get around the grocery store. Since I never did manage to avoid running into things, picture a female Klingon calling out in panic, “Get out of my way. I don’t know how to stop this beast!”
My brain surgery, with two weeks in the hospital and one in the rehab center, happened seven years ago come August. My hair has grown out, and only my hairdresser notices the long dent across the top of my head. My balance has mostly returned, although I do have days when my legs go “wonky” on me.
The memory of that horrible time back in 2003 is beginning to fade, so I think it’s time to write again about staying independent when a person gets old. We’re all going to get there some day.
Microsoft Word count = 1,000
"The Writer's Cramp" daily entry for 04/21/10