Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Trails

Son Isa and I walked into the nursing home last week and were immediately hit with the acrid smell of piss. We said nothing, actually expected it and walked straight to the desk where a girl asked who we wanted to see. "William Dowling" She recognized my face from photos that Mr. Dowling had on his wall and gave us the room number before pointing us down a hallway. I made eye-contact with a few of the patients sitting in wheelchairs along the way. Most of them did not acknowledge any exchange. Bill was sitting up, watching television. He immediately shut it off and we all hugged.

Once upon a time, Bill was a hard-drinking truck driver in New England and had apparently pissed off his family so bad that none of them wanted anything to do with him anymore. He still felt strong and big around the shoulders, even after six operations for cancer. His eyes welled up as he spoke, "Man, it is good to see you guys again. It gets pretty lonely in here."

"Yeah, I'll bet it does."

His roommate entered in a wheelchair. He was one of those in the hallway who had not responded but now asked Isa to open the door to the bathroom for him. To show us that he was not totally defeated but was dealing with his situation like the man he is, Bill said, "They just made me a greeter, so I'll have something to do around here now." Even more significant, a woman on the other end of the building had recently gifted him with one of those battery powered chairs to get around in and he was happy about that. After about 15 minutes, we walked out of there vowing to visit again soon.

This morning we learned that Bill passed away last night.

Happy trails old friend.

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