"I'm going home."
I work at a long term care facility. Many of the residents have a form of demensia, like Alzheimer's. They can vividly remember their youth, marriage, and children, but not what they had for lunch. Looking around, all they see is a hospital, not the home they had lived in for decades. The room they have been assigned is hardly their home. It is where they live. It is where they are cared for. They have a roommate, who may or may not be such a great roommate. And yet, what can they do? For some reason, it has been deemed that they need more care then they could receive at home, so here they are. And for the life of them, they can't remember why there are here.
"No. I'm leaving. My husband is coming to pick me up and we are going shopping downtown."
Does she realize her husband has passed away or is living somewhere else? Or that 'downtown' is not the down town she is thinking of. Perhaps she grew up somewhere else, or if not, in the years since she is thinking of, downtown has grown and evolved. She doesn't realize the shopping trip she is thinking of was years ago and things have changed.
"Do you know where I live?"
I reply down the hall is your room, I'll walk you there. He smiles at the prospect of getting to walk with this young girl (I'm seventeen). His smile drops when he realizes he is not home. We look at a magazine and he tells me who the pictures are of up on his walls. I act happy, enthralled in his stories. Little does he know, that I would like to cry.
"Can you call my wife for me?"
I want to cry, but no tears come. I'm at work, and I pretend to be happy. But inside the tears are flowing. They are wonderful people, kind, considerate, loving. And yet, here they are in a long term care facility. They were teachers and foremen, mothers and sons. They made a difference in the world. Here they sit, telling me stories. I wonder what they were like before. Before they had to say 'I'm going home.'