A snowstorm swept across the window of my mother’s room in the Good Samaritan, a nice room and well tended. Mother had chosen the bed closest to the window so she could watch the storms and the wind and the trains that passed at the bottom of the gentle slope beyond the fence where a plowed field lay. Her father was a depot agent so watching trains made her happy. She’d returned from a two-week stay in the hospital and was curled into her blankets. I lay beside her and curled around her back. We watched the wind batter snow in gusts. I’d planted a miniature lilac bush outside her window earlier in the spring, but it was hidden in the icy squalls.
The Good Samaritan Nursing Home is in small-town Wymore, Nebraska and where my elders go to die. That’s blunt, but it’s the truth. I’d seen it transition to an old time two-story brick structure to a modern one-story residence with gardens. The old structure sagged in decay across the street. My grandfathers died in the old building and my Grandmother Sunderland. Dad died in a hospital bed. Grandpa Sunderland, too. They’d never lived there. I grew up on a Kansas State Line farm some seventeen miles south. Wymore is where we shopped, went to church, and where Mom and Dad retired when they left the farm. Mom volunteered at the new place after they moved to town. Several of her friends lived there or worked there. Then Dad died and Mom when to live with my sister north of Seattle. “I never hear the wind up here,” she’d complained more than once.
I live in Kansas City, Missouri some three hours of driving from Wymore. A year before she died, she came to visit and I drove us up to the Wymore church where all the people she knew went. Mom had macular degeneration so when we got out of the car in the church parking lot and walked across the gravel to the front doors, she took my arm and said, “If someone comes up and I can’t see who it is, tell me their name.”
“What if I don’t remember their name,” I said. “I haven’t been here in years!” She drew herself up to her full four-foot eleven and a half-inch height and looked at me as if I were six years old instead of reaching for elder-hood myself. “Just ask them to remind you of their name!”
Everyone was happy to see her and kids who’d grown up in the church stopped to measure their growing height against her tiny frame. Adults bent down to hug her.
That afternoon, driving back to Kansas City, Mom watched the rolling fields of blood red milo, nearing harvest time. I heard her sigh. She turned to me and said, “It’s time for me to move to the Good Sam.” And just that quickly, a two-week visit turned into forever.
(to be continued)