UNITED STATES—”OK, when will you be back?” the mom says from her wheelchair to the parting figures of her caregiver and boyfriend.
“Sunday afternoon,” Tatiana calls back and then the glass doors shut behind her and Oscar. A serious looking woman in a gray knitted sweater and shouldering a handbag comes to close to the door and a harsh new bell goes off. The woman looks for all the world like a visitor to the nursing home.
“What is that bell for?” asks the mom.

“That’s for when one of inmates, uh, patients gets too close to the exit. There’s an alarm.”

“Is this a jail?” the mom asks.

“Kind of,” he says and his voice trails off.

“What happened to my leg?” Davy sighs, but the mother answers herself, “I fell in my house, and I got surgery. Who brought me the balloons?”

“Tatiana and Oscar.”

“Can you do something for my leg? It’s killing me.”

As he fitfully pushes the wheelchair through the hallways, the broad doorways reveal different patients in different poses: agape, alertly reading and staring off into space. One woman has a bandage around the top of her head.

“Take me to my bed. When are you going to take me to my bed?”

“Eventually.” Davy smiles wanly. “Listen, Mom…”

“I don’t know how to listen.”

“There’s a whole world going on outside. There are fiestas, people, having babies, and getting divorced. You’re as bad as Uncle Jerry. All he cared about first was his sciatica, and everything revolved around that.” Davy’s voice raises. “Then is was his back, and surgery was the panacea. He got operated on and he was supposed to play tennis again. Then it was MS. After that is was PMS.”

“There’s my bed,” the mom says as they wheel into the center of her room with three beds, two occupied.

“Can you help me get into my bed?”

“We’ve got to wait for the nurses.”

“Why are you torturing me, keeping me sitting up?”

“They want to keep you sitting up till lunch.”

“I don’t want lunch.”

“They are going to have pumpkin pie.” The son raises his voice to the patronizing level younger adults use when addressing elders hard of hearing or weak of mind. “YOU WILL WANT SOME PUMPKIN PIE.”

“I don’t care.”

“You LOVE pumpkin pie,” Davy shouts.

“You could be disturbing the lady next to me. When are you going to get me back into my bed.”

“Eventually.”

“I’m in pain.”

“What hurts?”

“Everything. Can you do something for my leg?”

“Wiggle your toes.”

“Now how am I going to get home?”

“Stop asking questions.”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Nurse, can we have some more painkiller.”

The nurse speaks from behind the curtain drawn while changing the lady in the neighboring bed.

“We already gave her two painkillers before her last therapy.”

“Get me to bed, get me to bed NOW,” the mother demands.

An assistant nurse comes inside the room and does this round look as if she had been halted by a giant rubber band. “Let’s put her in bed,” she says to the nurse finishing up with Doris.

“Here we go, Mrs. Johnson.”

“Wait, she was supposed to stay sitting up till lunch came. It’s part of her therapy.”

“Mrs. Johnson, do you want to get back into bed?”

“My back is killing me, get me in bed as soon as possible. I thank you.”

On the count of three the nurses heave her into the bed. Davy is defeated. Helplessness is contagious in this place.

“I’m going home before you leave?” the mother asks.

“No…”

“How long am I going to be here? How much of this stuff should go home with me. That little Christmas tree.”

“It’s not yours. I feel so lame correcting you, in the hope… hope. Look, it reached a point. Everything’s no no no with you. You are not cooperating with the therapists. You’ve been given you 48 hours to start doing the activities they’ve asked you to do.”

“I am cooperating, aren’t I?”

“Medicare will stop paying is you don’t show progress,” the son says. “So you better start saying yes and smile more.”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Neither do I.”

To be continued…

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Hollywood humorist Grady Miller grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon). His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)