Old man Applegate was about to go off again, destined to scare most of my patients.
Even those heavily sedated might be startled.
He had a barrel chest, with a voice an opera company would drool over; no amplifier needed.
He would usually rattle on about some war he was in or the day he did this or that.
Standing ramrod straight, six four and 250lbs, his presence came ahead of him into the room.
We all knew him to be blind as a bat.
His ears were huge, but I am not sure he could hear a bomb dropped in his pants.
He smiled all day long, regardless of what took place around him. His cheeks were as gentle as silk and red like a Santa Claus picture.
97 years or not, he was a force that could not be ignored.
“Ray?” he hollered, as window panes shook.
“My name is Sheila! Not Ray!” I hollered back without shaking any glass.
Most of the other patients seem to know my gender, even if they do forget my name.
I like my name Sheila, I like being a woman.
I treasure being a nurse.
“Ray, you must think me dumb, just waiting for the bus ride to my final stop. But, I am not! Just have too many miles on some of my parts. Let me tell you, some of those parts have had lots of games, laughter, and had a good Ole time!”
Unfortunately, I noticed he took a good deep breath. We all knew what came next.
Tiny Burt was already putting his hands over his ears and crouching under a table.
“In my time, I have challenged men to the death, and wooed all the pretty women around me to “give it up”, drank the wine that was good, and outran the “poor me!”
His dulled green eyes caught me, held me, as if he actually saw me, and he asked,
“Do you really think I have regrets? No sir! I do not! Though I have outlived my usefulness to everyone else, I had one helluva a ride to get right here and meet you, Ray. A helluva ride!”
For the first time, his eyes cast down, his smile faded just a bit. His body seemed to relax, like a cat at the end of their stretch.
“I got sent here because my ex-wife would not take care of me. Nor my children. Then my lights went out. Hell, I took care of that woman for 35 years, and her cooking was awful. And, let me tell you, my kids were not so much a blessing as a circus. My blindness is almost a gift.”
He went into a spin, like a ballroom dancer he claimed he once was. He looked towards the sky that must be there, just beyond the ceiling and 5 floors above, “IVY HILL LIVING HOME.”
“God take me right now! I have no excuses for my mistakes and will make no apologies for my life.”
He spun around once more back to me, arms wide, and said,
“I will die tonight! But not because I am beaten, but because, my life tank is full, and I need to let someone else take over. I have never been stingy!”
Things quietened down again as he was led peacefully to his room.
The Nightshift told me the next day, Applegate passed in the night, with a smile on his face.
For some strange reason, I was happy, not sad, and not because of the silence of the ward that day and the next.
Though, the silence was haunting.
I believe his passing showed me how to live a life, how to go on regardless of loss and disappointment.
What a man!
I am not loud, but I determined that day,
”Sheila Ray will go out with a bang!”
I will not be one sentence in the newspaper obituary. I am going to be a full paragraph, just like Applegate.
Sheila Ray will rattle a few windows for her final ride if I have to use a shotgun to do it!