“Visitation Rites” by Ed Galing

Ed Galing


from the outside it
looks like a college
campus, situated off the
highway, with a long road
that leads to the front
entrance, with large white
columns on either side,
rather than the psychiatric
hospital where my wife has
been for two weeks now,
because they said she was
deeply depressed, at age
sixty, writing strange
messages on back of photos
and speaking about death all
the time, the doctor advised
a few weeks of medication and
treatment, away from stress,
and unable to cope with daily
life, so now i come to see
her on visiting day, and i sit
in the waiting room while they
go to get her, watching the passing
parade of doctors and nurses, in this
antiseptic prison, mostly drug addicts,
and alzheimers here, and my wife
comes towards me, unbelievably pretty,
slim, her hair well done, smiling,
as we embrace…no one close to watch
us, and i feel guilty, having her
put away like this, so we sit for
awhile, and she tells me they are
taking good care of her, and she
is getting better, and then she takes
me to her room, to show me the bed and
well-used dresser, and we hold each other,
and i feel as if this is not us, like this,
but someone else, she tells me they are
having a dance down in the recreation
room, and asks if i want to go, of course,
so we go downstairs, where the others are
already dancing on the floor to a jukebox,
while others stand by to watch us, and we
dance together, hold each other, i feel her
body, just like the old days, and everyone
smiles and says we look good together, you
would think this was just a regular dance
somewhere on the outside, instead of a
mental hospital, and for awhile i imagine
that it’s really true, and i love her so
much, and hope there is a cure
so she can come home soon, and later
we go to the cafeteria for
dinner, and i get in line
with her, a long line, all
headed for the steam table,
and we sit down at a table
to eat, and my wife begins
to cry a bit, and asks me
when i can take her home…
she tells me she loves me,
and i tell her the same…
we then sit in the lobby,
and my wife seems tired now,
and not so spry as before,
she says she is sleepy, and
wants to go to bed, and soon
a nurse comes to take her gently
by the arm, to escort her to her
room…i hug her, and whisper that
i will be back next week, she nods,
turns away from me, and i watch her
disappear down the hall, my heart
crying, as i head for my car, to
return to my lonely home, where
we have lived for forty years,
some days are better than others.
this is one of the better ones.

from Rattle #26, Winter 2006
Tribute to the Greatest Generation

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