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He titled the email to Share the Care as “A Date With A Hospice Recipient.” It was a simple request. He wanted to go out to dinner. And he was embarrassed that he’d have to go in a wheelchair.

The truth is, he’d not been out of his home in 16 months. That’s when Hospice started. The doctors told him that he was going to die, but they just couldn’t tell him when. He had an aortic aneurysm over his heart and it was growing.

So, together we prepared his final documents and he insisted that his body be willed for science.

“That is, if they’ll have me,” he said with a smile.

His hand was shaking too hard to complete the forms, so I did. I carefully crossed t’s and dotted i’s, knowing that one omission or mistake can invalidate the entire form. His body was going to the UCSF Willed Body Program. It would be a simple endeavor — just one phone call and they’d be out to whisk him away.

When the hospice nurses arrived, there was really nothing to do. They brought in morphine and Ativan, just in case, but, he really wasn’t in any physical pain. It was just a matter of waiting. The nurses came every Wednesday, and they would sit and talk. There really wasn’t anything else to be done.

We to set up services for him. Lifeline, Meals on Wheels, household repairs, and a life alert button. But, he was alone all day.

With Hospice coming in, death seemed more imminent. There was a feeling of immediacy descending over him, and it translated into depression. He lost hope, and his loneliness took on another shade of yearning.

So, we contacted his stepdaughter. She lives in Southern California, and asked her to come north, her “dad” really needed her more sooner than later.

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He lives in an older 5th wheel RV. It’s been home since 1991, and things have gotten somewhat cramped. His stepdaughter tucks her tiny frame on the made-up couch to sleep. The days run into each other with little to do. She’s set pots of flowers along the fence and a pan of old bread sits in her truckbed, parked on the grass, for the birds. Together, they’re living on his meager Social Security check, so tensions can mount and worries become reality.

But, today he wants to get out. I arrive at 6 p.m. sharp. His wheelchair is folded and parked outside the front door. Very carefully, he weaves and shakes down the ramp until he can safely sit down. I hold his arm and pray his doesn’t fall. Then I begin to push, worried about the bumps, sidewalk cracks and crumbling driveways that we’ll stumble over in our two block walk to the Japanese restaurant. The room is crowded. They sit us next to the door, it’s the only place his wheelchair will fit

He looks over the menu, flipping pages and comments that there’s “ a lot to choose from.” He hadn’t been there since it was Pasta Prego. A long time ago. He orders sashimi, pot stickers and a Kirin beer. He speaks a few words of Japanese to the American waitress. She smiles, but doesn’t understand.

Once, during the Korean War, he lived in Hiroshima for a couple of years. He tells me of the people, the food and the museums he visited. Mostly, though, he talks of how much his memories mean to him now. They are all he has to think about. And, he smiles again. Then, he bursts into a short song he recalls, in Japanese. No one else can hear him, but me.

The restaurant is loud and packed with families. I know he can’t hear me very well, and he’s difficult to understand after a stroke robbed him of the ability to articulate words. He wants to eat with the chopsticks, “once I was an expert,” but settles for a more manageable fork. When the food arrives, he expertly mixes the wasabi with the soy sauce and smiles as he admittedly, “gums the food.”

An hour later, it’s time to return. He insists on paying the bill. I tell him it’s going to be expensive, more so than anything he can remember. It’s been over 20 years since he’s been out to a restaurant. He asks I fill in the amount on the credit card slip, and he shakily signs in blue ink.

Wheeling him home, we notice the flowers planted alongside the sidewalk and the bees hustling the lavender pollen. He’s feeling good. This is a happy moment. He starts to sing again.

We navigate the curbs, cracks and bumps, and sweating a bit, I’m glad to return him safely home.

It’s been a good date. And, as he closes the screen door, he is still grinning ear-to-ear. He tells me he’s got to get out more — more than once every 16 months.

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Yvonne Baginski is Director of Share the Care Napa Valley. She says the organization is looking for friendly visitors who can help make the lives of older people better in our community. Call 492-3198 or visit napavalleysharethecare.com.

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