Retired porn star

>>Retired porn star

oldeyessliver1

The old woman glared at us. “I’d LIKE to get into my room, if you don’t mind.”

Mom was washing Dad’s hair (Dad broke his pelvis and is pretty much immobilized in a rehab/nursing center right now), so I tooled on out to the hallway where the old lady waited impatiently in her wheelchair. As I approached, her eyes widened a bit in alarm. She said something quietly and essayed a tentative smile.

I smiled back, and crouched to catch her words. “What can I help you find, ma’am?”

“Well, you’re in my room and I was wondering when you’d be finished, because I’d like to go to bed. I’m sorry,” she apologized, “But I’m very tired.” Her thin, velvety skin sagged softly down her cheeks, beneath wild ivory hair. She’d drawn a blanket up tight around herself, so that it obscured the words on front of her fleecy sweatshirt.

“I don’t think this is your room,” I said, “But they all look alike, don’t they?” (no lie–a little color-coding would go a long way in these places)

She was having none of that. “It has my name on it,” she insisted, pointing to the name by the door, “So I do believe it’s mine.”

It occurred to me that those letters were pretty small, and her glasses were off, hanging on a braided chain around her neck. “Well, it’s kind of hard to read, but it says ‘Morgan,’ ma’am. That’s my father’s name. Is that your name, too?”

Now she looked bewildered and embarrassed. “No, that’s not my name. Are you sure that’s what it says?”

“Yes, but that’s OK; I’ll help you find your room. Do you know which number it is?”

She gestured at a large silver bangle on her wrist. “It’s on my armband, but I can’t find it anymore.” She looked at me sadly, and for a moment I lost my heart. I wondered where she’d come from, if she’d raised children, held a job, commanded attention when she strode into the room, if she’d teased the boys, clung to her mother’s hands for her first baby steps. I saw her, and I saw myself if I get old, and I was suddenly frightened for both of us.

Gently, I pushed back her other sleeve and found the nursing home ID band. I turned it around–they really ought to put room numbers on these things–and found her name. “Mrs. Riesemeling,* I’m Cynthia.” We solemnly shook hands. “May I push you to your room?”

“Oh yes, please,” she said, sighing heavily, and we set off. It wasn’t far, and a nurse’s aide hurried up to take the wheelchair. “Mrs. Riesemeling,” she scolded playfully, “You shouldn’t wander off like that, we were just starting to look for you.”

“I’m alright,” she said softly, “My friend helped me come home,” and she took my hand.

Her blanket slipped, and I read the inscription on her sweatshirt: RETIRED PORN STAR. I grinned. “Cool shirt, Mrs. Riesemeling.”

“Thank you,” she said proudly, “My grandson gave it to me. You’ll like him.” She gave me a last look over her shoulder as she was wheeled into her room, “But I wasn’t really a porn star. That’s just our joke.”

I laughed, and she giggled. Then she disappeared behind the curtain and I returned to Mom and Dad.

———-

*And no, that wasn’t really her name.

BY THE WAY: Several people have asked privately if I took a picture of Mrs. “Riesemeling” and used it to illustrate this blogpost. Nope–I’d consider that a massive invasion of her privacy. The photo is from iStock, legally purchased for online use.

2016-05-16T14:17:02+00:00

9 Comments

  1. cynthia January 19, 2009 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Jan, much appreciated. In this particular case, it wasn’t so much about age but probably more about old habits dying hard. Dad did what he’s been doing since I was a kid, i.e., walked down the ladder with his back to it instead of turning around, facing the ladder and safely getting down.

    I followed his example for awhile…until I fell off the ladder. I guess it just took Dad longer. Sigh.

    But yeah, he’s getting better and we’re fighting through all the red tape and insurance hassles. We’re fortunate in that this is really the first time something really catastrophic has happened to the immediate family. I’ve certainly heard others, including my dad, describe how the healthcare systems in this country are really set up to help healthy people recover quickly, not deal with eldercare or more long-term disabilities and illnesses. But until I witnessed it, I didn’t understand just how defective things really are. Count me as a huge advocate for chronic healthcare reform from now on.

    Kat, you didn’t hijack anything…it’s all part of the same thing. What a mess!

  2. Jan January 19, 2009 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Hi Cynthia –
    I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad. It’s really tough when parents get old and sick, as we are both learning. I’ve had similar experiences to your visit with this lady, and in the Alzheimer’s wing, the visits are especially strange, sad, sweet, funny, painful, and desparate. Hope you and Mom are both doing okay.
    Jan

  3. Kat January 17, 2009 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Steve, we have legal assisted suicide in Oregon. You have to be within 6 months of the end and I think you have to be evaluated for sanity by 2 doctors. Then you are given pills which you are supposed to take by yourself. From what I’ve read, just having the choice has made the end easier for many. Not all who have gotten the prescription have gone ahead and used it. There hasn’t been a huge rush of folks offing themselves. There has been a lot of attention paid to quality of life, hospice and palliative care. At least a lot of talk about it.

    My mom died way too young at 64. On the plus side, it was fairly quick. Even though she had early onset Parkinsons she worked until she was 60. I still don’t know her exact cause of death. She tried to tell me and my brother what was up but didn’t get a chance to. Went into intensive care suddenly two days after her 64th birthday. At least we were all there to spend it with her. We are estranged from her husband at this point and can’t trust him to tell us the truth anyway. Sux for us, but mom is at least at peace and didn’t linger and isn’t part of the mess that has ensued.

    Wow. Sorry Cynthia for hijacking your blog. I ‘spose I could have posted that up on mine 🙂

  4. Stephen Richard January 17, 2009 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Yes, I wish she had been able to go when she wished. We now are having reports of more people going to Switzerland, where assisted suicide (which is what we call it) is legal. Although it is illegal to do anything which would assist a person to die (including helping them travel to Switzerland), there have been no charges against anyone who has helped their relative to travel to Switzerland, nor those who were at the bedside while they died.

    I hope the laws will have been changed in this country by the time I need to access this kind of service that there will be no risk for my relatives.

    Steve

  5. cynthia January 17, 2009 at 7:54 am - Reply

    Thank you, Steve. I have to admit I’m a firm believer in the right to choose your own exit–years spent watching cancer patients will do that to you. I once spent an hour listening to a brain-metastasized lung cancer patient calmly analyzing her ideal time of death–Medicare would pay for X days after which her family would have to pick up the tab, her undoped pain threshold was Y, her capacity was diminishing at the rate of Z, her sense of outraged dignity at Z-3. Therefore, she needed to be dead by such-and-such date.

    Her great fear was that her body wouldn’t cooperate. “They ought to make us with off switches,” she fumed. The irony is, of course, that by the time you’re ready to hit the off switch you may not be able to, which happened in her case. She didn’t get her wish, her family couldn’t bear to see her go and kept her on life support which, in this country, can be pretty expensive. I wish she’d been able to tell them what she’d told me.

  6. Stephen Richard January 17, 2009 at 12:22 am - Reply

    Some years ago I had a dream that during a time when I was confined to a wheel chair, the whole extended family went on an outing to the south Downs, popularly known as the Cliffs of Dover. Why we would have gone from Scotland to southern England is one of those imponderables of dreams.

    After we all had been wandering around the paths at the top of the cliffs, I asked them to leave me parked looking out to sea while they went further. When they had gone round the corner, I unlocked the wheels and propelled myself off the edge of the cliff. There was no terror for me in the dream, just a sense of rightness.

    When I told my (less extended) family about this they were shocked. I explained that this seemed right to me even days after the dream and that I really wanted to go when I stopped enjoying life. I expect this to be many years away.

    I liked the tenderness and humour in your story.

    Steve

  7. cynthia January 16, 2009 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Kat, me too. She is a nice lady. This is an extremely nice place, the staff goes out of their way to be supportive…but when I’m walking past the open doors and catching a glimpse of these poor old lives, I really get bonged over the head with how much I have to be thankful for.

    Ed, my non-PC “hope I die before I get old” keeps getting stronger, which I probably should be ashamed of. But second choice would be to take off and leave the body before I realize what’s going on. I prefer the first.

  8. Kat January 16, 2009 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    I hope the grandson who gave her the shirt visits from time to time. It’s a big deal. I remember when I went to visit my grandma in her assisted living home in Tucson how she showed me off to everyone. “My granddaughter came to visit”. I only wish she hadn’t been moved so far when it came time for the assisted living situation. I would have visited far more often.

  9. Ed LaPlante January 16, 2009 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    As we age we all have, or will soon have the experience of spending time with friends and family at different care homes. It brings memories and emotions that sometimes I am glad I have but then again sometimes would rather not revisit. All I will have at some point is my working mind and my memories. I am not eager to even consider entering what I kindly call the “drooling” phase of life. I know it is sort of crude and definately not PC but I really do want to be “dead before I hit the ground”.

    Ed

    PS … I’m riding my motorcycle this weekend! No, I do not plan to leave earth on a bike, it is my joy, my freedom, my door to adventure!

Comments welcome! (thanks)

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