UNITED STATES—Davy and Karen are assembled now by the bed. They’re a bit strung out after a night of coffee and confessions at the local diner.
“Can you do something for my head,” mom groans. “It doesn’t feel right.”
“It’s so awful,” Davy whispers to Karen, “I want to puke. I’m telling you, strangers inspire kindness. Family contempt.”
“What are you whispering for? I can hear every word,” says mom.
“Look, mom, I brought you ice-cream, Neopolitan. Your favorite.”
“Not interested. Can somebody do something about my head?”
“You turned down the ice-cream. I knew there was a risk.”
The nurse passes by, saying, “She didn’t eat any of her breakfast, either. She’s lost four pounds this week. The only one who takes the time to feed her is Tatiana.”
“Thanks for telling us now get out. Oops,” says Davy. “I’ve had a little bit too much coffee.”
The therapist, Willow, enters the room. Mom looks at the empty bed alongside hers.
“She’s already doing her therapy,” says Willow. “She’s walking down the hall, using a bar without a walker. Now it’s your turn. Up and at ’em, Betty.”
“I’m not going. My back is killing me.”
“The nurse already gave you a pain pill. We’re going to get you up and out of bed.”
“I don’t want to leave my bed.”
“You don’t want to do anything. Ever. I’ll be back.”
It’s a threat, and Willow makes good on the threat, re-entering the room shortly, accompanied by a mannish nurse. The nurse lowers the bed.
“Oh nooooooo,” cries the mom. It is a cry savage and heart-rending. Anybody but a professional would leave the old woman alone, but in a trice, the muscular nurse has her sitting in the wheelchair.
“Oh my, I think I’m going to cry. Why are you doing this to me? It’s mean. When am I going back in my bed.”
“Soon. We’re going to do some therapy,” Willow says.
“Can’t the nurse come and put me down. I’m going to press the button.”
She grabs the button and the obnoxious ding-ding-ding begins in the hallway. A nurse comes almost immediately.
“Can you put me in bed?”
“No, Mrs. Johnson. You have to do your therapy.”
“There are some things we have to do that we don’t want to,” Willow says.
“Karen! Davy! Help me, help me!” she shouts. “Do something.” They stand, unmoved. Her wheelchair gets whisked out…”
Karen and Davy joins the entourage, as they go to the gym for elders. At the cycling machine an older man with a white mustache cycles away, like a person on his way to mobility.
“Let’s get you standing up,” Willow, the therapist says. The mom shrieks.
“I’m going to fall!” Her face scowls, her eyes glares.
“You’re not going to fall with two of us on either side,” Willow assures.
“I’m going to fall. I’m going to fall. I can’t fall again. That’ll be the end of me.”
One gnarly hand attaches with a vise grip onto the gymnastic bar. Willow suggests:
“Let’s take just one step forward. Talk to you’re feet like you were bossing the nurses around. There, I saw you, Betty, you almost laughed.”
“I’m not laughing, I’m crying.”
“Look at you, you took one step together. Let’s make it two more.”
Mom complies and Davy and Karen all cheer and grin at each other like Apollo has reached the moon.
“I don’t know what I did,” says mom, nevertheless pleased with herself.
“You can do it, Mom!” Karen says, patting her on the bony back.
“The bicycle is free now,” Willow says. “Let’s do the bicycle now. She seems much better with both her children here,” Willow says to Karen and Davy.
“The bike is for children,” Mom groans. “And it’s too hard for me.”
“The bike does all the work, you only have to move your knees,” says Willow. “And I’ll keep it on a low setting.”
“If you say so,” Mom says, seeming to accept the torture with fatalistic cheer.
“It’s a miracle,” Willow says.
To be continued…