Bad news

Tuesday evening, December 13th
I’m slouching on a sofa with my legs stretched across a coffee table in the lounge off to the side of the entrance to the dining hall. In front of me is a large fireplace. It’s just a gas fire but I like the feel of the heat on my face and to watch the flicker of the flames. I almost doze off in between listening to the sounds of the voices of the residents as they leave the dining room. New York accents, Brooklyn accents, New Jersey accents, all mix and blend together with the occaisional Yiddish word thrown in for local color. The most common question of the evening is about “The Races”. “Are you going to the races?” “Races?” “Races!” “Yeh, in the auditorium!” “Now?” “No later!” “Upstairs!” “Are you going?” “I dont know, Im tired.” “You should go!” “Are YOU going?” And on and on.

I overhear a small group discussing my mother. They mention Evelyn’s daughter, the one from Sweden. They discuss Marty, my mother’s friend. A man sits down at the piano behind me and starts to play for a bit. Another group gets on the elevator. A voice calls out “floors please, tell me your floors please.” (there are only 2 floors) An elevator voice calls out “the Rainbow Room, take me to the Rainbow Room”. The elevator is filled with laughter as the doors close.

I’m tired. Its only 7 o’clock but I’m tired. Its been a tough day. As usual, I woke very early – after going to sleep late after a long conversation with an old friend. At 8 o’clock I go to the cafe for my complementary breakfast. A resident comes up to me and says ” You know Martin Wendruff, right?” Now, Marty has been my mom’s fella practically since she moved in here 4 years ago. I had just seen him the evening before, when he had come back from a short stay in the hospital. He was in a room in Health Care, the same section of Monroe Village that my mom lives in. I answer, Yes, to the man in the cafe and he asks me if I had heard the news about Marty. Thinking he was referring to the fact that Marty had just moved into Health Care, I ask if that is what he is referring to. The man in the cafe, Sandy, says, “No. Marty died last night.” I stand there in shock! I can’t take it in. I had just seen him the evening before. Sandy says that Marty’s daughter was over in the computer room. I had met her for the first time the evening before. I head for the computer room – my bag of stuff forgotten on the floor under the table, my handbag forgotten on the floor, my breakfast forgotten. I see Linda and we go back to the cafe and talk over a cup of coffee. She leaves, to continue with all the preparations she has to do. I start to eat my breakfast but my buttered toast now seems to be just dry bread in my mouth.

My sixth day here in Monroe Village has begun.

3 Responses to “Bad news”

  • Amy Brown Says:

    How very sad! I was so touched by this piece. Please call me when you have a chance. A year ago , I was in exactly the same situation with my father, wanting so badly to stop a process of decline that simply could not be stopped, helplessly watching, at a hospice where sorrow and loss was all around me. I know how horrible it is, how draining. I am here for you.
    Lots of love,

  • Debbie Gerber Says:

    Oh Hilarie- I’m so sorry! Your poor mom! Did you tell her? How’s she managing the news? Do you still want me to come tomorrow? I’m so sorry…

  • Judy Caruso Says:

    They will both go together. It’s ok. Cherish this time

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