Sr. Wantabee met with her faithful leader at the hospital today and reflected on one of the patients she had seen recently. He was 69, “one of us,” an army vet, though had only been in for three years helping to build the Berlin Wall. He came home to start his own company, married, had two children, ended the marriage of twenty one years, twenty five years ago, but not remarried as that “was against the rules of his church.” Instead he had turned to alchohol and now struggled with balance problems and had been found at home all confused, sitting in a mess. They got him to the hospital for observation and he was pulling himself together. Chatting with Sr. Wantabee, an agemate, was fun for us both. He was enjoying advising the nurses about their dating life and the intricacies of the male mind but greatly missing his beloved cat of 18 years who curled up on his chest and loved him and his beloved dog of 12 years. He was “OK!!!” and did not need to be committed for observation. The problem was only he was of that opinion.
Sr. Wantabee left the room deeply touched. The struggle for self dignity in the face of aging and a failing body and a failing social life was so real. At the same time she felt the love of the family for a father who was confused and by whom they wanted to do right and protect. Likewise the nurses who saw the irregularities of gail, the failing body, were trying to do their best to help the patient.
He did not talk of the alchohol or of being found incontinent. He shared of his struggle for dignity, the love for his animals, and the conviction that he was not ready for assisted living. Sr. Wantabee remembered a similar struggle with aging parents and her own drive to maintain dignity as long as possible.
She left in tears. He was a mirror to the struggles of life that plague us all.