She was ninety. Mental acuity had always been a facet of her personality that had been a source of pride. Sure she was a shorty! Five foot six inches tall but well-distributed like her mother. Or so her father would like to quip over so many years now long past. She had first opened her eyes to the world at the midsection of that period of modernity when women had cut their hair short and thrown away their hoop skirts to trade them in for pants. The lack of work that descended on the nations had made her years as a child sparse but not unhappy. At seven years old she had heard the phrase ‘the forgotten man‘ on the radio from the President who had gotten it from the obscurity of some sixty years before. She had asked her mommy where God had left all of them?
Life as a young woman had taken some interesting turns as men were common back from the war to take back the jobs that she and may like her had held on the home front. She had many ‘rivets‘ to her name but they could not keep her attached to any man to bring her back from what had later turned out to be a viable career in business. Her other sister took on hearth and home while she took on Wall Street. So many years added up counting other people’s fortunes both here and overseas. That face in the mirror every morning seemed to attract opportunity. She was one of those girls that didn’t feel the need to ‘put out’ in order to get ahead. Her looks and her brains always interceded keeping her on top in a nice way. Though she was no feminist the wave of same seemed to change things so by a decade or so after it’s publicly announced rebirth she had double the competition to contend with as she had before. And not necessarily so understanding.
Though she had made the right choices along the way on the realistic level of reasonable prosperity the pensions and investments began to run slim after the year of her retirement. Little by little the friendships she had made along the way began to disappear out of natural attrition of others succumbing to advanced age while she remained healthy. It seemed both a blessing and a curse. The absence of children directly in her life had added to the increasing silence that had descended over her activities. Society was more interested in replacing the world that had long been the cornerstone of her foundation with some crazy backwards ideas about what life was supposed to be. Slowly suggesting more and more that those of her age group and outlook were no longer welcome to put in their two cents. Every the fiery voice she never hesitated to let one of her opinions gather dust in the closet. Maybe that made some others think that she was crazy or just downright mean? But she could never tolerate mendacity in any of its more subtle forms? Such was her existence.
All this went through her head at odd hours of the night between visits by the night nurse. She had been here nearly three weeks after arriving by ambulance, sick as a dog. What had happened? Her own personal doctor, a young woman that she though might have been recast in some ways from her own reconfigured mold had taken note of the amount of Prednisone that another physician from a previous sojourn in the hospital had prescribed. She had stopped taking it cold turkey. She found out the hard way that getting a flu shot at her advanced age on top of this course correction had sent her otherwise hale constitution into the ditch. Now laying here in this bed day and night with feet loosely lodged in hospital socks she wondered how much longer she had? The mirror on the wall in the hospital suite’s bathroom was not her friend. The area around her eyes had deflated into the hollows of her skull along with her cheeks leaving her gaunt in general appearance. All the artificial coloring of her hair had seemed to have leached away leaving a gray insubstantial wispiness that would in her mind been more appropriate to an old aunt lost in the pile of memories accumulated over time. When ever she reached out to the wheeled table or the railing alongside her bed she could see the skin of her arm swing freely like an empty pillow case.
How sad she thought sitting in the big chair beside her bed trying to ignore the persistent visual clatter of the TV hovering over the bed as the only source of the light of life outside of this prison. Her mind seemed in working order despite but her beauty had long since departed. She was simply another old fossil of a now long forgotten era that served only as a source of profit in the mildest sense of what the government’s healthcare had niggardly decided to provide. The staff was pleasant but rationed their felicity carefully. Doling it out in small portions after the usual introductory, ‘how are you feeling’s‘ and the ‘I’ll be back in a little while’s‘. Her body unconsciously aligned itself to the shift chugs and the cycle of meals that came and went with the printed regularity of the laminated menu card. Would she ever get back to her own little apartment to make sure that the lady in the office hadn’t killed her two remaining plants through neglecting to water them? in a very basic way she envied them sitting by the window watching Winter’s unexpected drama unfold in blasts of nightly cold drafting in and the heat of an occasional blue sky afternoon salving same. All amidst a steady silence of her small pared down collection of furniture and framed pictures that gently gathered dust waiting for her to return so that they might once again be lovingly caressed with a dust cloth.
All the things that one amassed in the ebb and flow over the course of one’s life eventually were pulled away by the riptide of too many years. The world of trustworthy friends pared down to occasional accommodating acquaintances whose own lives founded in too many generations away from one’s own could not afford much more than a kindly acknowledgement now and again. Characters that one might never have invested more than a polite or casually friendly word now were waited upon as the best substitute available for a close confident. The conversation unsteadily tending towards what seemed beyond trivial as to the few social functions that one had left to prove some self-worth. She could occasionally mentally catch herself in mid conversation with these few rambling on about something superfluous. But continued on because it was all she had to talk about. That and memories of being alive in a world that no longer existed save for a very frail and fading few. When a couple from the building arrived as if by some unknown genie’s granted wish she hated the fact of her own gratitude at the end of the seance. She did not want to let her emotions fall into the trap of wondering whether they might come again. He need for humanity to maudlin and similar now to those adolescent years waiting for the family phone to ring and have the receiver handed to her to hear the voice of a long sought after beau.
The itinerary had been set that tentatively stated she would be released in another week with the obligatory return for a subsequent test for a half a day by the next week. If she did not get sicker or take a turn for the worse it would mark her longest stay yet in this netherworld that served as the final edge of material existence. Religion had not been her thing though she hoped that she could believe in those possibilities that had become part of the clutter lodged betwixt her other longstanding worldly beliefs. She did not fear an absolute end only the slowly increasing final loss of her own usefulness and worth. Bering forgotten upon a shelf while realizing that she was no longer seen. Sleep finally taking her away from this constant worry as she dozed off to a hopefully more pleasant place.