Sunday 31 March 2019

Heaven's Waiting Room

by NT Franklin

double espresso


Becky walked into her Dad’s room at the Cedar Creek Nursing Home and said, “How are they treating you here?”
He glared at her. “Nursing home? Bullshit. Look at the people in this place, waiting to die.”
Becky leaned in close like she did with her kids and whispered, “Dad, we’ve been over this. This is where you need to be. You’ll be safe and properly cared for here.”
“Dad, this is the third nursing home you’ve been in over the last six months. Coarse language upsets the staff and the patients. In case you’ve forgotten, your behavior and language caused you to be removed from the past two places.”
“Yeah, yeah.”
Becky rolled her eyes.
“Don’t you roll your eyes at me, young lady. I’ve been telling you that your entire life.”
Becky closed her eyes for a moment to gather her thoughts. Dad had always been in charge, always took care of everything, but now he couldn’t. “This is the only nice nursing home left. I don’t want to put you in the one run by the county, it’s really depressing.”
“Then don’t, Becky. Take me home.”
“Don’t make this harder than it has to be, Dad. This is your home now. Your house was sold to cover medical expenses for you and Mom. The proceeds came up way short. You know all this.” Becky’s eyes moistened.
“Yeah, fat lot of good that did. What’s-his-face doesn’t want me. That’s why I can’t come home with you, isn’t it?”
Becky sighed. “His name is Randy; he’s my husband, the father of my children, your grandchildren. You know I can’t provide round-the-clock nursing care like Cedar Creek.”

This wasn’t Becky’s regular visiting day She’d only placed him in this nursing home five days ago and they’d already called about him verbally abusing the staff and generally being rude and uncooperative.
She stressed in the entry interview that the last six months had been difficult for everyone. He wasn’t dealing well with the loss of his wife and being wheelchair bound. Despite that, he was healthy for his age but was losing his will to live without his wife of 50 years. None of this she could have said if he was present.

Becky pushed the wheelchair toward the games room but was intercepted by a huge but jovial orderly. A towering man stopped in front of the wheelchair, bent down and said, “I’m Jerimiah, who do we have here?”
Becky cleared her throat and said, “I’m Becky, and this is my dad, Eugene.”
Jerimiah stood up and smiled a wide, toothy smile. The white teeth were a sharp contrast to his dark skin and warm brown eyes. “My dad was named Eugene, so we’re already friends. He’ll love it here. Come along, bingo starts soon. Becky, let me take the stern and guide this gentleman to the game room.”
Before Eugene could protest, Becky stepped aside, saluted, and said, “Aye, aye, Capt’n.”
Jerimiah let out a belly laugh that shook his whole frame. “We’ll soon be friends, too. Follow me. The game won’t start without me calling the numbers.” Jerimiah winked at Becky and pushed Eugene to the game room.
Becky relaxed her shoulders, releasing tension.
Jerimiah’s deep musical voice filled the room as he announced, “Hey everyone, please welcome Eugene. He’s going to be playing bingo with us.”
Becky smiled a half smile when a chorus of “Hi, Eugene!” filled the room.
Jerimiah turned the wheelchair back to Becky with a nod and went to the front of the room.
“See, Dad, this is going to be a great place.”
“Take me out of here, Becky,” he growled.
“There are nine other players. With one card per player, the odds of winning are ten percent. I need better odds to play.”
“For Christ’s sake, Dad, play the game and don’t worry about winning. Can’t you enjoy yourself without having to be in control?”
“No. I can’t.”
“Learn to. We’re staying.”
“B 7,” came the deep, rich voice. Followed by “G 55”, then “N 41.”
“Where’s your card, Dad? This could be fun.”
“Becky, with ten players, odds are there’ll be a winner by 26 balls. Unless these old bats aren’t paying attention. Do we really have to wait until then before we can go?”
Becky fought back tears.
When Bingo was called, the winner received a crisp, new one-dollar bill as a prize. Becky wheeled her dad back to his room.
Becky was trying to think of something to break the uncomfortable silence, but didn’t have to.
“You know, Bob and Martha two doors down have it made.”
“Glad to hear you’ve made friends here,” Becky said.
“They’re not friends, just names on the door.”
“But you’re socializing with them?”
“Hardly. They cleaned out their room yesterday. Seems that Martha died one day, and Bob died the next day. Nice that they went together.”
Becky sat on the edge of the bed and searched for words. “Maybe you should try to talk to some people here, Dad. I’m sure you’ll find someone interesting.”
He stuck out his lip like a pouting child. “Harrumph.”
Becky looked into his sad eyes and knew she had to leave or she would break down. “I’ll be back later in the week, Dad. Be nice so I don’t get an unpleasant phone call from the nursing home. Try to enjoy yourself. Please try.”
“Nursing home. Bullshit. It’s a place to die, it’s Heaven’s Waiting Room.”
Becky cried the whole way home thinking, maybe Dad’s right.

 About the author 

NT Franklin has been published in Page and Spine, Fiction on the Web, 101 Words, Madswirl, Postcard Shorts, 404 Words, Scarlet Leaf Review, Freedom Fiction, Burrst, Entropy, Alsina Publishing, Fifty-word stories, Dime Show Review, among others.

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