Robot Doctor Tells Man He Has Only Days to Live
She's Ba-ack, Along with The Alex and Ronni Show

A TGB READER STORY: Saturday Scenes

By Carol Nadell

LOIS’S APARTMENT
The long-awaited sun streams in the window, bouncing brightly off Lois’s silver hoop earrings. I see her first from the back as I’m coming in the door. I walk over to her and greet her with a kiss, carefully stroking her bony shoulder.

“You’re wearing the necklace,” I say, smiling with genuine pleasure, as I notice the string of pearl gray translucent beads I gave her – not knowing what else to do – when she was told the cancer had returned.

“I knew you were coming,” she croaks in a voice so faint that her hard-of-hearing husband has trouble understanding her.

Always my most well put-together friend – perfectly coiffed, dressed and manicured - she still insists on getting dressed, combed and lightly made-up, now all accomplished with the help of a home care aide provided by the Metropolitan Jewish Hospice Service from nine to 12 every weekday morning.

Through a small disc inserted in her chest, Lois receives pain medication by pushing a blue button on the remote control device she holds in her lap. She munches on ice chips to keep her lips and mouth moist. She hasn’t eaten solid food in weeks, this latest bout with cancer having robbed her of a functioning digestive system.

Her hands, skinny, weak and ice cold, are wrapped around a cup of hot water as she struggles to bring some feeling back to her fingertips. But constant vigilance is required as she nods off frequently, creating the risk of hot water spilling on her legs.

Later that day, I will go to a medical supply store and buy microwaveable gel packs to wrap around her hands. Her other visitors and I will smile at each other as we watch the color return to her hands. Even the smallest victories are celebrated when someone you love is dying.

I report that I have been to a wonderful matinee the day before and she, a theater lover like me, wants to hear all about it. The unspoken truth is that we will never again share a Broadway matinee, a movie at the JCC or long dinners talking about grandchildren, travel plans and the latest political travesties.

But she is still alert, still interested and still strong-willed. She is still Lois.

MADISON SQUARE PARK
The oldest person in the park seems to be about 32. Everyone is in shorts and t-shirts, visibly thrilled with what they mistakenly take to be the real arrival of spring.

I watch shapely young women as they delight in combing and styling each other’s hair. I see buff young men raising their toddlers aloft while diligently keeping a careful eye on the infant in the carriage. Balloons of bright primary colors float overhead.

Guitarists are perched on park benches, strumming contentedly, unconcerned whether anyone is listening to their tunes. The unmistakable aroma of char-grilled hamburgers and hot dogs slathered with mustard settles over the park like a familiar, comfortable blanket.

Uncomplaining young couples and singles stand in the serpentine line at Shake Shack waiting to place their orders. Cholesterol and carbs are far from their minds. They will live forever.

HOME
I make my way back to my apartment. My gait seems just a bit slower. My arthritic thumbs are not to be ignored. The woman who looks back at me from the mirror has grayer hair and saggier jowls than I remember.

I am not Lois. But I am not the frolicking young people in the park either.

I know where I am on this continuum.

* * *

EDITORIAL NOTE: You are a prolific bunch of writers and there is now a backlog of reader stories to carry us almost to summer. So for awhile, I am not accepting new stories until we work through some of the ones already on the list.



Comments

Beautiful. Your in-between makes you so attentive to the others around you. We don't know where we're going but still never lost.

The poignancy of awareness of where one is on the continuum shines through here.

What wonderful descriptions and writing! Thank you!
And so glad Ronni's blog is back!

Excellent writing about a sad subject.

Lovely story, Carol. Enjoying the moments and watching the people in another world.

I visited a friend too - here name was not Lois but she was my friend who has just passed away.

Your thoughts about that visit and your day brought tears to my eyes. Just like me looking into the mirror. Life goes on, we go on but it sure get harder.

I hear you and feel your words. This is wonderfully written, giving the reader a view of "the hours" in your day.

Beautiful prose. I could see the park and the people. It is a lovely dream of days gone by for some of us.

Along with the sadness of Lois' suffering is the knowledge that life goes on and children continue to laugh and play as they have always done.

I, too, am glad that the technical glitch that Ronni has been experiencing is finally fixed and we can continue to sail on our journey together.

Lovely story well written. Meaningful for all of us.

Very unsettling to have TGB unavailable . Hadn't realized I was so dependent upon my special reads. Glad to see everyone again.

Genie

Beautiful, Carol. It's an amazing journey, this thing called life.

The next time I make it over to our biggest community park, I'll have a whole new perspective ...

Graceful, poignant and true.

Nobody escapes ageing.

My 84 year old volunteer friend spent her last two weeks in palliative care, surrounded by family, photos, friends and nurses.

How does a person so generous, vital and hard working disappear?

Like that.

Cancer of the liver is a chaos bastardly alien.

I walked into her room, sat beside her and cried.

She wasn't crying.

Medicated to the maximum, all she could do was whisper-

"I tried my best, but it didn't work."

Wait a minute. You raised four children on your own after your husband died, you managed a huge grocery store, you volunteered three days a week in a senior home, your house was spotless, you won volunteer of the year on the west side of Montreal, you took low income seniors out for breakfast and bought them gifts, you decorated the ILR for every occasion.

That's just a slice of her life.

K is a champion.

Very descriptive and excellent writing! Not much doubt where I fall on the continuum, that's for sure. SO glad to see TGB return.

Carol, What a heartfelt and beautiful piece of writing. Never having met Lois, she is now in my thoughts and shall remain.
I heard about your writing from my friend Wendl Kornfeld who emailed me the following: That was a gorgoeus piece of writing on Ronni’s blog today, I was very touched by it. I know what you mean about looking in the mirror…. thinking how I'm in a middle space for which I don’t have a name or description.
Have you met Ronni yet? She stays with us when she’s in NYC but I fear there may not be more of them. Such a blow.
Once again I am being reminded of the talented Carol Nadell who isn't me. Alas I need to email Wendl and share where credit is due.
Warmly, Carol Nadell (Van Deusen)

Thank you.

What beautiful reflections these are, Carol. Thank you for sharing them with us. Sunrise, sunset . . .

Oh such writing! I felt every bit of this. Smiled and nodded in understanding.
....
And this: a tale of great caution-there is a bad late flu making its rounds. A friend, my age (72), returned from 5 weeks of travel after just retiring from a long career. Healthy and active, a widow, with grown children, bees and goats, she was glad to be home and shared stories and gifts with her family.

The next day a sore throat. The next a cough. Bad cough I'm told. 4 Days later, she went to the ER. They airlifted her to a larger hospital. She is on life support with H1N1.

Yes she'd had flu and pneumonia vaccines.

I'm terrified. And I'm telling everyone esp those who travel and/or have compromised immune systems to get antibacterial wipes and become Monk: wipe, wash, wipe.

There is too much illness that seems inconsequential until it isn't.

You are right, Joan Eisenstodt--illness can come on so quickly and take one away. Seeing this recently with an elderly friend who has quickly taken very ill and does not seem to be getting better, just slipping away.

Thank you.

A wonderful posting today, the writing was so good. I expect good writing here, and certainly Ronni never disappoints. Thank you all.

Thank you Carol, for a well written reminder of how our caring and love for each other is so important, so beautiful. Pay attention. See this spring. See and hear and experience while we can. Touch each other with gentle hands. Ronni, so glad to see the blog back again!

Thankfully you're back, Ronni - mornings were beginning a bit frantic and worrisome! Ah, well, the ship has arighted.

Carol, this is a lovely reflection on life and the importance of being present at all times. The contrast of opposite ages and awareness of life's flow always enthuses me, and brings on more enjoyment in the moment.

Marvellous portrait of a wonderful spirit and a reminder of the fragility of our lives.

Wonderful writing.

Thank you.

XO
WWW

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