End of the Road
After leaving the hospice, he drove the short distance back to the hospital and parked in the lot. Although the sun was already setting, it was still very hot and humid. He was in something of a daze. Riding the elevator back to his mother’s floor, he remembered what the doctor had said about her getting back to her baseline, and then how the hospice representative had been so negative about her chances. His mother had always bounced back, he thought; she will bounce back again.
The elevator doors opened and a pretty blonde nurse walked to the corner of the elevator. He looked at her but she didn’t return his gaze. She was looking at her smartphone. And then the elevator doors shut.
His mother was dying and pretty women no longer looked at him. He had become invisible. What was the point of it all, he thought, looking for his mother’s room. He found her still hooked up to the machines and sleeping. He stared at her for a while. This is it, he thought. She is still alive, but she doesn’t have much longer. He refused to believe that it was over. She is such a fighter, he thought. He continued to stand there and just look at her for quite some time. They wouldn’t discharge her from the hospital if they thought she was in danger, would they? That didn’t make any sense. None of this made any sense.
He would have gone over to her side and held his mother’s hand, but he knew that was something she was not requesting. They had never been very close in a physical way. He would hug her from time to time, but she was very restrained and never expressed physical affection toward him. That kind of distance came from her mother, his grandmother, who was very British and very stiff upper-lipped. His mother had the quality of never wanting to show any weakness in front of her children, and particularly in front of him, her only son.
He remembered when their little poodle had died and how he had broken down and wept, that she had remained stoic and tearless. She was much tougher, he thought, than he was. He glanced at her again and could see her lips mouthing slightly as she breathed. It was all about breathing at this point. By definition, she was still alive.
He had liked the physical place, the hospice, like a resort for sick people. And the nurses were very attractive and seemed professional and very on top of their game. As he lay in the recliner and thought on these things, the brunette hospital nurse came in and smiled at him. “She has been sleeping since you left,” she said. “I suppose that is a good thing,” he said. “Oh, yes, the rest is good for her.” “Do you think she will bounce back?" he asked. “… I don’t see why not.” He could hear the hesitation. “The doctor said he expected her return to baseline,” he said. “She is a tough old bird,” she said, as she checked his mother’s vitals and made sure she was still properly connected to her tubes. “Are you going to spend the night,” she asked. “What do you think,” he said. “She should be fine. If you want to go home and get some sleep, we will let you know if anything happens.”
He watched the young nurse as she moved about the room. Her movements were clean and precise and she knew exactly what she was doing. It excited him to watch her. At the same
time, the helpless body of his mother in the bed, as she lay there, frozen by her immobility, shook him to the core. He could not save her. He was helpless to do anything for her. He was caught between these two extremes: the lively vibrant young nurse, and the immobile body of his mother. He almost wished she would just let go, and move on. He hated to see her suffering like this. There had been so much suffering the last few years.
Before she left the room the nurse stopped and smiled.
“Is there anything I can do for you?" she asked. He just smiled back at her and cast his eyes downward.
“No, that’s all right. Thanks. Just say a prayer for me and my mom, if you would.”
“I will for sure,” she said, and danced out of the room, taking her youth and her beauty with her.
HIS MOTHER WAS DYING AND PRETTY WOMEN NO LONGER LOOKED AT HIM. HE HAD BECOME INVISIBLE.