September 5, 2015


A dapper, 95 year-old man in the independent living complex, William always greeted me warmly. After his wife died some years ago, he started taking care of another woman, a widow. They were good friends and he became protective of her. Then she passed away, too.

Well-turned-out before leaving the apartment, he was always pressed and stylish, delivering a charming, "Hello!" to all encountered.

Recently, though, he began slipping away to inside his own head, as people do. Someone must have alerted family that he wasn’t independent any more. My mom noting, “William is so lost now.”

His belongings were pared, one last time, into a shared room down the hall from my dad in the nursing home. As I walked past his door a couple of weeks ago, he was sitting on the end of his bed, waiting for an aid to finish dressing him. Now turned out in a cardigan and easy to pull on pants.

When I arrived yesterday, he was shlumped in a wheelchair in the community room. Head down, sleeping. Or at least he had his eyes closed as the TV dribbled daytime programming. There was a rubber-handled lever, like a small silver and black baton, on the floor next to him. I brought it to the nurses’ station and told them I thought it came from his wheelchair. They nodded knowingly and set it on the counter.

Later, on my way out, he was in the exact same position.