December 13, 2010

Ed Galing

NURSING HOME

this morning when i
got up
they had to change
the bed sheets again
because i had wet
myself during the
night
like a baby who can’t
control his bowels,
my helper, miss jones,
a nice young black
girl didn’t mind doing
it,
i just sat in a chair
when she changed the
dirty wet sheets with
new clean ones, and
i said, i am sorry,
and she said, with a smile,
it’s alright,
i used to do it for my
own father when he had
prostate cancer,
in this nursing home
everyone is good to me,
at ninety i don’t
have much chance of living
too long, my hands are
now mostly bone, without
much flesh on them,
i can hardly walk without
a walker, or wheelchair,
and each day the pain gets
worse,
they say nursing homes
like this one are your last
step before death,
and I see lots of that going
on,
the guy in the other bed
has alzheimers, a nice black
man who mumbles and shouts
and thinks he is in a palace
somewhere, when he is awake
he sings old man river,
and he looks at me, and says
do you like my song?
sure, sure, I tell him,
old man river, that’s both
of us,
and then we both laugh,
when my wife died and
my kids skidded wherever
they went to, I was alone
my home got sold, and my
social security was taken away,
just enough money they said
to keep me in this god forsaken
nursing home long as I live,
listen,
i am not angry at anyone,
i lived a full life,
i had young days when i
rolled around in bed
with many a woman
but married none
but the last,
the army took a piece
outta me too, when
world war two came
along,
christ, most of us
are now dead,
not too many vets alive
my age, bless em all,
what good did it do?
we still are at war,
afghanistan, iraq,
all phony political
wars,
in this nursing home
the dining room
is full of people
men and women like
me,
we are the remains
of a good supper,
with the bones
left over,
wheelchairs everywhere,
and screams in
the night,
do you need to know more?
the building?
what can i tell you…
it’s a prison
a large compound
surrounded by trees
so no one from outside
can see us dying
in here,
we eat in the dining
room,
no one laughs, but
everyone screams,
attendants push
the food in front of
us, lousy food,
same old staples,
most can’t eat it
some are fed by others,
their mouths drooling
as the spoon goes in,
I sit across from
three others at
my table and watch
people who are
without hope, their
eyes stare at
nothing,
they fall asleep at
the table,
not me,
i can still move my
arms,
the cancer hasn’t
reached that far
yet,
and anyway, what’s
a bit of a piss bag
that i wear day and
night?
better than pissing
in my pants,
and they change me
and don’t mind
and wipe my ass
too
cause i can’t reach
and push my wheelchair
into the main room
so i can sleep the rest
of the day
my nurse miss lilly
gives me a bath
once a week,
she submerges me in the
warm bath water,
and I am naked
and she tenderly washes
my scrotum and penis without
shame, don’t worry, it won’t
stir, i laugh at her,
and she grins and says,
you are one fresh guy,
but it feels so good the
way she massages me
all over, the warm water
is good for me,
don’t you mind doing this
kind of work, i ask her,
no, she says quietly,
we are all human beings,
later, scrubbed,
dried,
she dresses me and
pushes me and the
wheelchair
into the main
dining room
where they are
having bingo
today…
she leaves me
there and says
she will come
back for me
later
i sit around
and play the
game with the
few others
and all I hear
is numbers
going
around and around
in my head,
round and round,
round and round

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010
2010 Pushcart Prize Nominee