Friday, April 8, 2011
Tonight I aimlessly bounced around Bingo like a Macy’s Day Parade balloon that’s escaped its wranglers. I have lost my tether.
Tonight was my first Home Bingo since Mike’s death. On the way to the Soldiers Home, I told my son, “Either everyone is going to be so nice, it makes me cry, or no one will say anything, and it'll make me mad.”
The reality was somewhere in between.
The second I walked in, four people needed my attention. Ken Levick wanted me to wipe his table. Ann Lawson had to tell me a resident or two had been recruited to help out at Bingo, in case I didn’t come back. (Really? In case I didn’t come back?) A nervous Gus, one of the new helpers, wanted me to explain his duties. And Dorothy called me over to ask, “Did they ever figure out what to do with Mike?”
(Actually, I talked to Mike’s son this afternoon, who told me Mike’s memorial service has been scheduled for next Saturday.)
Of course, death is simply a part of life at the Soldiers Home. People move in; people die. Someone else moves in, and dozens of other people wait for him to die so they can move in. I had lost a dear, treasured friend; these people still have to work on staying alive themselves. I get that.
But I had really, really wanted to hug someone tonight and feel and share sympathy. Not so much anymore.
Bingo lumbered on. I was in a daze, but not totally numb:
** I was amazed to see Jim back from the hospital and back at Bingo. He had been in the ICU while Mike was hospitalized, and when I visited Jim, recovery looked very unlikely. But here he was.
** At one point one of the main doors to the Bingo room closed, and after I reopened it, Gus said: “Know who closed that? It was a spirit.” Gus was totally serious—so serious, I got chills. But I assured him it was merely a tiny woman in a wheelchair trying to propel herself with the door handle. “Oh, good,” Gus said.
** I was happy to see Dick, the formerly Lost Man, who called me over to talk. I had high hopes for this connection.
“I know I’ve seen you somewhere before,” he told me. “But I don’t recall where.”
** The always-cheerful Cal Bush needed some ice for his tea, and while he patiently waited for me to unlock the bunkered ice machine, he told me he's going to the casino Saturday. "I won $500 the last time I was there," he beamed. "I only bet 30 cents." I punched his arm. "You and my mom," I whined, having just returned from Vegas, where slot machines spit out money at the mere thought of her. Cal took off his cowboy hat and told me the next time I had gamblin' plans, I should kiss his bald head for luck. "I am just going to kiss it now, no matter what," I told him. And I did.
** Gary stopped outside the door. Finally, I thought. My hug.
“We were wondering whether you’d ever come back again,” he said.
Eh. Never mind.
We were almost awkwardly quiet for a second, and Gary said, “I went to see Mike about an hour before he died.”
I could feel my eyes filling. “He wasn’t communicating,” Gary said, “but I wanted to see him.”
“Thank you,” I said to Gary, and he started to scoot away. “I felt bad that I wasn’t there.”
“Don’t,” Gary said on his way down the hall. “Nothing you could have done.”
I missed my hug, but I felt as if sympathy had been shared.
Half of me wanted to dissolve into sobs, but I walked back into Bingo and patted Gus on the shoulder. “Thank you for helping tonight,” I told him. “You're doing a great job.”