"WAIT FOR ME"
GEORGE PETRIE - LONGBOAT KEY, FLORIDA
He was never "famous" as in celebrity but he was well respected in his career. Over the years he had delivered hundreds of children and, since he lived to an old age, he would run into adults who would tell him that he was their mothers OB-GYN and brought them into the world.
Now those days were over and just fuzzy memories. He knew his name, sometimes he even knew what day of the week it was but , unfortunately, he also knew that time had caught up to him and now he was trapped in a wheelchair in a nursing home. Sometimes he would scream out, probably out of total desperation since he was unable to do anything with his arms or legs. All of his extremities had betrayed him and now he was trapped at the mercy of people who had to change him, feed him and sometimes degrade him with their callous comments. There was nothing wrong with his hearing but, so often, they would talk about him as though he wasn't there and treat him as though he was a worthless waste of time. They had jobs to do but that's exactly what it was for a lot of them. Itseemed to him that some of the people who worked there hated what they were doing and they blamed him for it. He knew it wasn't his choice. He knew that he never wanted to grow this old and dependent. He also knew that none of them cared that, once upon a time, he was a well loved and respected physician.
I visited with him as many times as I could. It was difficult to sit with him because he usually wasn't in the mood for a lot of conversation and he couldn't hide the bitterness thatthis time in his life had delivered to him. If he swore at you, it was because he was in pain, or needed to use the bathroom. If he swore at you it was because everyone always seemed too busy to check on him and see if he was alright.
Each of the rooms had a signal light. Most of them went ignored. He had one of those signal lights to but he didn't have the strength orability to use it. All he could do was scream for help and hope that someone would come to his room to see what he needed.
He cursed at me many times. I never took it personally as I knew he had the right to be angry. I knew that he was miserable and didn't have the option that I had to walk out the door and go home. I was also sure that he knew the staff hated him. He yelled for them, cursed them and, in their opinion, was way too needy. None of them seeemed to understand that some day they might be in the same position he was in and finally understand what it felt like to lose all of your independence.
I was sitting in his room one afternoon watching television as he dozed in his wheelchair. Suddenly he awakened and yelled out "Help".
"What can I do for you?" I asked. "Nothing", he responded, "I just wanted to know that you were still there". I thought he had dozed off again when he turned his head slightly in my direction and said "How old am I?" "You're 88 years old Doc, and in November you will be 89". "Wow" he said, "Do you think I'll still be here when I'm 100?" "i really don't know Doc", I told him. I was thinking that was the end of the conversation but he proceeded to say "I hope you're still here with me when I'm 100".
I had to think about this for a few seconds and then I looked at him and said "I think I will probably be in the 'great hunting ground in the sky' by then Doc!" Without skipping a beat he replied "Well if you are, please wait for me because I don't want to be alone in another strange place, ever again."
I'll wait for him. Perhaps he'll be there, wherever it is, waiting for me! I sure hope so and I sure hope that both of us can walk and use our hands and arms. Maybe there are angels there but neither one of us wants to have to depend on anyone else for everything.
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