We pull into the small and always full parking lot. Walk through the main door into the reception area, sign in on a clip board, write names on name tags. Walk past the table with coffee and tea, turn right and walk up the hall. Walk past parakeets in bird cages, nurse stations, elderly in wheelchairs. There's the smell. A faint mixture of cleaner, soiled sheets, and hospital food. We reach the big room with the tv, weave through the wheel chairs and reach her room.
We look into the three bed room, look at the bed closet to the door.
"She's not here." I tell boyfriend at my side.
We peak in the room further and see her, sitting at the window. Sunlight streaming through snow white hair. Beautiful, skin stretched hands, folded in her lap.
We approach quietly. She's sleeping. Undoubtedly tired from therapy. Therapy that is supposed to help her hip heal, help her to be able to walk again, lead a somewhat independent life again. Therapy that I feel is exhausting her, weakening not only her body, but her mind.
We stand quietly, boyfriend and I, watching her rest. So peaceful. Sun kissing her face, warming her wrinkled skin.
He rubs her arm gently and after a little coaxing she slips from sleep into awareness, but not completely.
I look at a woman who has raised all boys, been happily married for over 50 years, been active in her church and card groups and lived independently until the fall sitting in her wheel chair, seeming so small and fragile. I am watching a body and a mind deteriorate. Tired after serving her so well for 93 years. Struggling to continue, to fight, to heal.
We talk with her for a couple of minutes, "how was therapy?", "did you hear the rain last night?", "have you had lunch?" She answers and asks a couple of questions of her own, but it is obvious that she is exhausted. We stand quietly with her, boyfriend mouths and asks if I'm ready to go. I shrug and give a nod, signaling that I'm ready whenever he is.
He tells her that we are going to leave and you can tell she is ready to rest. I watch as the love of my life leans his 6" frame down to hug his Great Grandma. He hugs her long and I wonder, "does he feel it too? this sense that there may not be much time left." They embrace and I see years of love quietly being spoken with absolutely no words.
I hug her and tell her what I always do, "We'll be back." Because we will.
Again I am amazed with the strength left in her hug and my heart hopes.
She tells me she loves me as we embrace. I tell her we love her, too. Because we do.
This woman with whom I have no blood connection, no marital link, someone who three years ago I would have never known existed, I love her.
My heart hurts for my boyfriend as we leave, because how do you start to say goodbye?