Hospice, it’s a real conversation killer.
So death, what a bummer, amiright?
The couple, Jack and Jill, rode in silence with the occasional interjection about the weather and the Grammy’s. When they arrived, it was a relief to leave the car. They stepped out of their temporary vacuum world onto a freshly sealed, asphalt parking lot.
“This is nice,” Jill said with a grimace against the cold.
She pulled her coat together with one hand and held a bouquet of wilted flowers in the other. At the top of the inclined parking lot was a light grey stone, two-story building with clean, white trim around the windows. Along the edges of the building dry, brown, stick bushes waited for Spring to come alive with bright and vibrant colors, unlike the occupants of the building, grey and prostate, watching the world turn from their beds.
Next to the door, a sign read, “This is a secure facility, please ring bell for assistance.”
Jack studied it for a second, pushed the red button and waited; he was very good at following directions. The door clicked after a few seconds and was opened by an unseen hand.
“After you,” Jack said gesturing for Jill to walk in front of him.
Jack was also known for his good manners and gentle nature. Once inside, they met with another obstacle, Doris. Doris sat at a table in the foyer, posing as a receptionist, bouncer, and tour guide, depending on the day.
“We’re here to see Beverly De…”
“Bev DeMonn?” Doris cut him off eagerly as though to say yes, we know the same people, isn’t that a coincidence.
Doris was a small woman with short hair done up in that old-lady-way requiring weekly visits to the beauty shop for a wash and style. She nervously adjusted her glasses on her face and shuffled a stack of papers on her desk.
Jack stood tall and looked Doris in the eyes. He shook his head in confirmation and gave a warm smile.
“Yes, exactly, she’s my grandmother.”
“That’s nice,” Doris said with as much sincerity as she could muster. “Right this way.”
Jack and Jill followed Doris’s shuffling steps as she led them down a hallway and through an open sitting area. There was a fireplace pumping out dry heat, warming two empty arm chairs and an empty couch. The place was strangely quiet and still for such a large facility.
“It’s nap time,” Doris explained, reading their minds. Then in a whisper over her shoulder, she added, “And we just lost a few residents.”
“That must explain all of the locks, everyone wandered out,” Jill snickered.
“Not funny,” Jack hissed without looking at his companion.
“Ok, ok,” Jill said unrepentantly with a shrug, “anything to lighten the mood.”
Suddenly, the lights grew brighter as they stepped into a cafeteria. The kitchen area was against the far wall. The rest of the area was taken up by empty tables and chairs.
A shriveled up human, presumably a female from the fuzzy pink sweater with shoulder pads that she wore, sat alone at a table. In front of her, there was a small dish with a half-melted, purple Popsicle. A wooden stick leaned out over the edge, like a riderless teeter-totter. With a weak shove, the woman pushed the dish to the side and folded her bluish hands on the table.
“Bev, you have company,” Doris announced and readjusted her glasses.
Bev looked straight ahead, her eyes a bleary blue with pupils drawn into pinpoints.
“Grandma, it’s me, Jack.”
Perhaps he was as unrecognizable to her as she was to him; her once black hair was now gray, her face shrunken in without dentures to support a shape, and her body was half of its previous size.
A dehydrated apricot, apple, plum? Jack tried to match up the fruit with the woman without any luck.
“Oh, and this came for you.”
Doris reached into the pocket of her sweater and pulled out a letter, postmarked and stamped from Florida. Bev turned to Doris, reached out with a claw like hand and grabbed the letter without a word. She sliced it open with the long nail on her index finger and extracted the contents.
Slowly, she read each word of the epistle, feasting her eyes as she refused to allow her body. Jack pulled out a chair and sat next to his grandmother while Jill selected a seat across the table from the two.
On Bev read and still she refused to acknowledge her company.
“How are you, Grandma Beverly? We heard you were sick and brought you these flowers,” Jill spoke loudly.
For the first time, Bev looked up at Jill.
“I can hear just fine. What time is it?”
Jack stepped into the conversation, seizing his opportunity. Gingerly, he put his hand on her arm and said, “Its two o’clock, Grandma.”
“Hmmm…too bad,” Bev exclaimed and returned to her letter.
Dying was not about to change her mind about these unsaved heathens. It was simply too late to do anything about it. So Jack and Jill went back down the hill, got into their car and drove away with a sad promise not to return until another much, much later day.