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Making my after dinner rounds at the nursing home, I'm rushing down the hall hoping everyone is asleep. I have notes to write, order to transcribe, doctors to call, appointments to make. Please let it stay quiet tonight. At the last door, about to turn and head back to the desk I hear sniffling, quiet barely there weeping, a child-like voice in the darkened room, "I wanna go home". I peek into the night-light lit darkness and she sees me; The plaintive voice whispers, the old wrinkled hand reaches for me. I step in and reach for her fingers brushing the tips with mine. Sitting up slowly She pats the bed next to her moves an inch or two to make room tries to smile asking me to sit and stay. I bend to hear her better, her roommate is snoring lightly. Soft, paper thin, blue veins on the back of her shriveled hand I trace with my index soft. Whimpering with great heaves of shuddering old lady breath in my left ear. I have so much work to do, so many patients, so many medications to give, so many old people to check on.

"Please" she's begging now, grabbing my hand tighter, lifts my chin with her other hand, forcing me to see her watery blue-gray eyes. "Im-a-wanna-go home" Italian, 'no-speak-a-the-englaise'. And me, no speak-a-the Italiano. But, this conversation needs no words. I can tell from the voice, almost a keening, the barely concealed sobs, the deep deep down hurt- confusion and unspeakable sadness, it's universal-I wanna go home.

They all wanna go home-think they're going home, talk about going home. Someone's coming to get them tomorrow, later next week, in June, at Christmas. Their husband, their wife, son, parents, granddaughter, coming to take them home. Only they aren't. Ever. Not today, not later, not next year. This lady, this forgotten human being lives in a nursing home and she's got the blues-got'em bad tonight. It's about 90 degrees in her room, yet she's cold. I sit on the edge of her bed- a major infraction, and sigh.

She points to pictures on the wall. "Me-momma, me-poppa, me baby" she wants me to know she has loved ones, was once a loved-member of a family, part of something. Tears wind their slow journey following the wrinkles on her cheeks, get caught in the crease at the corner of her mouth, and finally drip off her chin, land on my younger smoother hand and dry there. I rub her hand as she cries, pat her back, smooth her thin strands of hair and touch her face. She grabs me around the neck pulls me in close for a hug, crying.

She smells like powder, I croon some sounds tut-tutting, and shushing her as I would a small hurt child. That's who's crying, the little lost sad girl inside this ancient body. "It's okay shussssh" ,I whisper, We love you, we take care of you". It isn't hard work-but it's powerfully sad. I feel my heart beating against her old old chest, I hear a distant painful cry down the hall and I have to go. I kiss her lined face, she presses my tear stained hand to her disappearing lips and gasps her good-night. She pats her heart and pats my chest where my heart is. We are friends. I am her family. I am her nurse. Buona Sera bella.


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July 2010

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