June 13, 2005


She was terribly piteous in her pain. She moaned and she cried out loud and loudly, without the apparent ability to contain her cries. She was very old as was her husband. She, in a wheel chair, he, mobile and in what looked to be good health. They sat together, bound by what -- duty? love? habit? vows? no other choice? -- and alone, separated by her illness and his health, an unbridgeable vastness. Divided by physical condition. It is an immutable law of nature, I think, that while joy can be shared, pain cannot and it cleaves those formerly joined by love and shared experience. They ate from trays provided by the nursing facility at a round table in a sort of sitting room next to the door to her room. After the meal, he will leave and she will return, alone, to her room. I don't know their names. He called her Bee. He was very patient, almost infinitely patient, caring and tender. He explained to me, helplessly, that it's her back, that she needed an operation but, for some reason he did not explain, the doctors could not perform it. I was there because I had to retrieve the cup my daughter let in my grandfather's room. I was there to help this man, how could I not offer? I gently pulled her back upright in her chair. She had slipped down and he couldn't lift her and I am strong, certainly strong enough to lift a frail old woman and to do so gently so as not to hurt her more than that which I could not avoid. He was grateful and offered to me the back problem as an explanation, as an attempt, I think, to share his burden. Her feet slipped off the leg of the table and he knelt and placed them back on, without complaint, with all the patience in the world. I left them there, eating their dinner, joined by love and divided by pain -- is that melodramatic, that phrase? I hope not. It's how I saw them. Two gray heads together at the table. In truth, while I was saddened terribly, I was humbled by his love for her. I was saddened by the terrible indignity of aging, the thought that the golden years are not golden at all, but. . .

But what, really. I'm not sure. I left them there to go be with my little family. My golden haired smiling children. This reality is not yet mine. I can't share their experience but I could help just a little bit by lending my physical strength and my sympathetic smile to his explanation. Indeed, no one can share their experience. Pain cannot be shared. I watched my children play and thought, I'm glad that's not me in there. Not yet, at least.

Posted by Random Penseur at June 13, 2005 11:45 AM

Hopefully never RP.

This is a very bitter sweet story. One we will all face in one way or another. Well written.

Posted by: Wicked H at June 13, 2005 12:03 PM

oh, so poignant, RP - it almost made me cry at work!

Posted by: GrammarQueen at June 13, 2005 12:05 PM

Very sad, and amazing, how the human spirit can withstand a constant barrage of hardship. My grandmother passed away last year in a nursing home, unable to recognize her family, hardly able to speak, and always what seemed to be angry.

I hope I never have to go that way. Take me not, oh Lord, with a full diaper, but with a peaceful sleep, a quick stroke or heart attack.

Posted by: Oorgo at June 13, 2005 02:11 PM

"joined by love and divided by pain "

Beautifully expressed.

Posted by: Chrissy at June 13, 2005 03:30 PM

I am saddened by the story, yet lifted by your words -- your insight. I can see exactly what you see -- yet your economy with words is nearly breathtaking.


Posted by: Margi at June 13, 2005 04:15 PM
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