At Home

We all slept in until 9:00, then randomly gathered in the kitchen for breakfast.  My kids decided to cook breakfast while I took Jerry back up to get dressed.  Funny how there was nothing in my kitchen to cook; no eggs, a half of handful of cereal, about 1/3 cup of grits and some chocolate bread that someone sent over..... It took a while to get Jerry ready and while we were together I told him, “Jerry.  Today’s a special day.”  Looking into his large, unfocused blue eyes, I said, “Remember how we talked about getting help around the clock?  We are going there today.”  He said, “For how long?”  I said, “Until the doctor says it’s time to come home.  Mark and I are going to fix up your room and the girls will bring you to meet me.”  Still staring into my eyes, I continued, “I need you to be brave.  We both have to be brave.....for our children.”  Nobly, he said, “I’ll do my best."

It was perfect that Robert, his beloved companion, came with us to set up the room.  He brought his walker and sat in the corner while Mark and I arranged furniture and placed pictures on the walls.  We raised the  blinds to let the sunshine in.  Tom, the maintenance man, Kathy, the director, and Gerry, the nurse, checked in periodically to bring in smiles that gave us a mental reprieve.  Kathy made up the bed and Tom hung Jerry’s hatrack with two Carolina hats on it.  Once the TV was hooked up, Mark put on an old Alabama game.  Then the phone rang.  It was the girls, “We’re three minutes away."

Oh God, panic time.  As I stepped  into the main hall, I saw three silhouettes walking toward me.  I could see Jerry’s long arm waving at nurse Gerry.  The girls were fighting back the tears as it was the first time to see Homeplace and they were facing saying goodbye.  I greeted Jerry with a huge hug and said, “Look, Jerry.  Let’s show the girls your room.”   When we entered the room, he  saw the painting of us and of Montana over his bed, and Mark showed him his is chair.    Then he  smiled and his eyes lit up.  It was if the stress rolled off of his shoulders indicating, “I’m home.”

Mark said, “Look, dad.  The Alabama game is on.”  Jerry stepped over to the chair and began to the hear the excitement of the crowd as the crimson tide played on the screen.  A few minutes later Gerry brought in Barbara, one of the other residents.  “I wanted you to meet Barbara.  She lives here.”  Jerry, in his usual gentlemanly fashion, got up to take  her hand.  With a delightful smile,  she said,  “Don’t I know you?”  He said, “I’m Jerry.”  Then she turned to me, “Don’t I know you?”  I said, “I am Sue.  Do you give hugs?”  We hugged and Mark said, “Do you know me, too?” and gave her a hug.  Then they left.

After about 20 minutes of togetherness, we were all beginning to feel it was about time to leave, but reluctant to do so.  The bed was made, the game was on, the pictures were hung; his bite size snicker bars in his drawer.   All that was to be done was finished.   Then, as if it were a Devine sign, Jerry’s eyes caught sight of the hatrack.  As if he had just come home, we watched in silence,  as he walked over, took his hat off his head, and placed it beside the others.  It was what we needed to let go.  We all wanted just one more hug.  But, Kathy came in to “take us on a tour.”   It was our cue.  We all walked down the hall together, turned the corner and walked out of sight; the door closing behind us.  We never looked back.  We couldn’t.  He was home.