Monday, April 16, 2012
A story from the Home
For sixty years, this is the way it went: after she put the coffee down in front of him, after he finished maybe half a cup, she'd take the Bible from beneath the phone and place it beside him for him to read for devotions. Ever since the kids were born, for years and years, that's how it went exactly.
But things were so different once they'd moved to the Home--new refrigerator, new stove, new microwave, a whole new kitchen--and it all took some getting used to. Maybe that's what happened, she told herself. It was all so new.
Three weeks or so they were there, away from the farm house where they'd lived for all those years--three weeks is all, and still things were so new that one night she just simply forgot to get the Bible from the shelf--not the one beneath the phone because they weren't in that kitchen anymore. She kept it now on the edge of the counter far left of the sink.
But that day, even though she got him his coffee like always, she'd forgotten to retrieve the Bible, and Alf hadn't said a thing, just reached over, or tried to, him always--for sixty years--being a little too woost sometimes, a little too thoughtless, out in the barn too--oh, my how she used to worry. So he didn't ask or anything, just leaned off that new chair they bought when the moved to the Home, leaned way over, and then lost his balance. Just like him too, to just reach over there, thinking he could still pull off a stunt like someone from a circus.
And down he went, and when he did, of course, he broke his leg. It wasn't much of a fall even, nothing that seemed that awful, but that leg of his--his right one, the one beneath him--was somehow shattered, and soon enough the ambulance was there because she couldn't get him up and it was clear to her--and to him--that there was way too much pain. This was nothing ordinary.
So he spent more than a week in a hospital in the city, and then another week here in town, and sometimes these days--she really couldn't get used to things in the Home--sometimes when she was all alone for the first time in her life in that new place, she wondered whether maybe he might never return. It was that bad, that broken leg. Of course, she never told anyone her fears.
And all he'd done was lean over way too far to reach the Bible, the Bible she'd retrieved for him for sixty years just after supper, once his coffee was just about half gone. The Bible that night that wasn't there.
She misses him badly, and these days, alone, she tries to determine just exactly how it was that on that Tuesday night she could have forgotten to get him the Bible for devotions, how it was she didn't remember, how it was, in some way, her fault he was in so very much pain.
Yesterday, the nurses had him up again to try to walk. My word, he's 90 years old and he doesn't heal all that fast anymore, not like the old days. He was up, but he said there was just too much pain.
That's what she told the others that day at dinner. He said he was still in too much pain, and he needed to get off that bad leg, Alf did. He said it just hurt too much to be on his feet.
So she's still alone in the Home, and sometimes she looks at the Bible, the one they've read from for sixty years, and she feels as if she'd broken her own right leg because there's pain there, just as there is in her heart for forgetting. How could she?
When he comes back, she tells herself, she'll keep the Bible right there on the table, even though the table isn't half the size of the one they had in the kitchen back home. When he returns, she'll keep it right there on the table so she won't forget again and he won't think he has to reach for it.
When he returns. When he returns. When he returns.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 5:51 AM