S.C. Morgan grew up in Oregon, where she learned not everything is black and white. Now she lives in the jungles of Costa Rica where shades of gray cover the full spectrum. Her work has appeared in Camroc Press Review, Bluestem, Four and Twenty, and Notre Dame Magazine, among others. Website: www.scmorgan.com
Death Comes Calling
They said it was inevitable; no one lives forever.
He made it 98 years, though, and 94 of those were vibrant. A Great Depression kid, he grew up poor but went to college and had a pivotal role in politics— a game changer. A populist. Later he sailed the Mediterranean with his wife, and eventually they settled down in a small town back home. He remodeled their house and did woodworking for a couple of years.
Then came the decline.
On the crazy nights he rampaged through the house, talked to people no one else could see, turned on lights, left doors open or unlocked, hid his shoes in the nightstand, stuffed his pockets full of toothbrushes, razors, soap, and other valuables because someone– They– were coming to get him.
Often during the day he was himself again, but the nights took a toll.
He was becoming a burden, something he had sworn he did not want to be. It became clear he could not care for himself, and at 92 his wife was too old, too physically tired, to care for the house and yard, the shopping and cleaning, him and his wild nights. It was killing her.
So he was moved to a memory unit, the new euphemism for a nursing home.
And he was better.
For a while.
He seemed to feel safer, although there were still unhinged nights when World War II swirled around him. The Admiral had ordered him to stand watch, he said. Occasionally he raged at the caregivers because no one grasped the critical nature of his assignments.
He did not understand why he could not be with his wife in their comfortable old house. He was lonesome, he said, even though his wife visited him every day, and often twice.
Then, and it wasn’t all that long after he moved there, he caught a cold from the staff.
What is the old adage? “Pneumonia is the old man’s friend.” Rapid and irregular heartbeats followed, then a fall, an emergency room visit, and finally, a family decision.
His youngest daughter, bereft, but still a warrior guarding her charge, sat by his side while hospice administered oral morphine.
For two days she whispered in his ear, hoping against hope his hearing would be the last thing to go.