The Fresh Air Faded, 09/18/2011
The fresh air faded quickly as we entered the nursing home. I inhaled and reached for assurance -- my ever present inhaler in my left front pant’s pocket.
A warm, dry Indian summer day and bright sunshine turned into sticky, stale air and fluorescent gray.
We walked the gauntlet of dozing, drooling, slumping people in wheelchairs. They lined both sides of the hall. Nurses and aids dodged and scurried, bottles, needles and pans in rubbered hands.
We ducked into the room. She sat eagerly looking in our direction. “Would you like to visit here or should we go somewhere else?” I asked.
“Oh, let’s go down the hall.” On the way out she pointed back to her roommate and whispered, “We’ll have more privacy.”
“It is nice to see you two, but where is that beautiful Chocolate Lab?”
“He’s in the car. Shall I get him?”
“Get him? I’ve been waiting all day to see Boomer.”
My wife ushered Ruth the rest of the way and I went for the dog.
He jumped eagerly out of the car; I held his leash tightly. He tugged this way and that. I let him take a pee. We rode up on the elevator. He sat so quietly. He knew the routine. The door opened and he pulled me into the hall.
“Boomer,” she called.
He headed in her direction and I let the leash go. He wrapped it around the wheelchair. Kisses, kisses, kisses.
Then he settled down and lay beside the wheels.
Old men hobbled by and asked about the dog. “Just keep on going,” Ruth instructed them. They frowned; she looked at us and shook her head. “If they stop, they’ll talk forever.”
We sat in the quiet and then talked about her cancer.
On the way back to her room with the dog along, the dozing, drooling people who lined the hall on both sides looked up and some of them smiled…at the dog.
“This is my pastor and his wife and Boomer. They have come to visit me.”