Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ground Hog Day

Yesterday was Ground Hog Day. Big deal if you're a fan of furry hibernating critters. Or if you're in elementary school. But Punxsatawny, PA has a whole tourist industry set up around Punxsatawny Phil. Who am I to argue with this? People come from all over the world to see this momentous event, while I have never bothered to travel the couple hours required to get myself there. But, according to Phil, we will not have an early spring. It's just that kind of talk that will get a little furry critter shot, so Phil might want to think about that. Interesting side note: I once saw Punxsatawny Phil in a parade. He was being pulled in a little wagon by a man in formal evening wear with a top hat. Phil was stretched out lazily in his little cage, sound asleep, exposing his woodchuck genitalia to all the children pushing up to catch a glimpse of the prognosticating phenomenon. We all received official Punxsatawny Phil coins to commemorate the occasion. I think Phil is a perv. Sorry.

You know the Bill Murray movie 'Ground Hog Day'? How the poor man is stuck reliving the same day over and over again. I saw the saddest real life example of that: The elderly woman sat at the main entrance of the nursing home with teary eyes. I'm a sucker, and could not pass by things like this without stopping if my very life depended on it. Of course, I stopped. Of course, I talked. Of course, she talked back. She told me her name. She told me that she was disturbed by the thought of all the orphans in Haiti, and that she could not help crying each time she saw their little faces on the news. She was ashamed that she was such an emotional person, she told me. Her children call her 'Mama BooHoo'. "Oh, I'm a sap myself," I comforted her. And then she told me the story of how her husband had to have kidney dialysis, and he was in such discomfort, having such an awful time. The doctor told them, "Now is the time to start praying for God to save him." She looked at me fiercely. "I did not," she said. "I prayed for God to take him, and God did, the very next day, he died." And the big tears rolled down her face. "Listen," I said, "I think that you prayed the right prayer. I think that it showed that you trusted God enough to turn your husband over to His care. Don't feel badly about that." And she looked so relieved. She grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze. I told her that I was beginning work here, and that I would look for her, and then I went on about my business.

Later, I was walking out the door, and she was there. The tears rolled down her face. I tried to walk past, but I could not bring myself to do so. I sat down on the bench next to her. She told me about the children in Haiti, the poor motherless children. And she cried. And she told me about her husband. The doctor told them, "Now is the time to start praying for God to save him." She looked at me fiercely. "I did not," she said. "I prayed for God to take him, and God did, the very next day, he died." And the big tears rolled down her face.

I walked out of there trying to imagine what it would be like to live the worst day of your life over, and over and over again. I couldn't. Her pain was so great that I could not even begin to wrap my head around it.

Ground Hog Day.

7 comments:

BUSH BABE said...

Oh Lord... that makes me ache.

Mary Paddock said...

My husband worked as a CNA in a nursing home for several years and saw this syndrome more than once (the man that continuously relived the death of a baby in a fire was the absolute worst). It was heartbreaking. Gary learned that small distractions, like the time you spent with her, meant more than the person who give their time realizes. Children coming into the nursing home, therapy dogs and cats, went a long, long way toward easing the pain.

mrs.spit said...

Ache is right. There are things in our world that I do not, hope to never understand. Sending hugs Debby. That's a hard thing to hear.

Bill of Wasilla said...

I read this over an hour ago and I still feel the horror and chill of it. Poor lady, prayed for what she thought was right, her husband died just as he would have if she hadn't have prayed and then she found herself unable to bear not only the pain of her loss, but needless guilt.

Kelly said...

Getting old isn't fun. When I visit my 97 year old aunt we often have the same conversations on about a 20 minute loop. She's still aware enough to realize that her life is no longer productive (she use to be an avid gardener and crafter) and that frustrates her. It breaks my heart.

Jayne said...

As Mary Paddock said even the smallest distraction can stop the treadmill of memories for a little while and it does make a huge difference.
Also, with growing dementia sometimes this is a survival mechanism for the person to retain an identifying memory that reminds them of who they were and their lives instead of a great fog in their mind. Sadly, it's usually something heartbreaking that sticks in the grey cells.

jeanie said...

That is truly sad.

And then that passes and she won't remember that her husband had died - and then that she had a husband - and then that she was...

Old age sucks. So all you can do is listen.