Thursday, October 22, 2015

Greek Tragedy played out at Nursing Home

Several years ago my SIL made an analogy as to how daughter Julie and I often interact verbally and physically, especially when times are tense: we act out Greek tragedies in our communication with one another. She was so right on. The drama at that time was about how Julie was not being careful enough while drinking a soda, thereby spilling it on herself and the floor. I chastised her, and Julie retorted in kind, scoffing at my concern, unaffected by the work it caused for others to clean up the spill. 

The analogy my SIL acted out, interspersed with a Greek Chorus humming in the background, still makes me laugh. Good for the soul to laugh, but also tragically sad. But if one can't see the humor in life, that is sadder still. 

Thus follows my latest Greek Tragedy of Julie and me playing out yet another little drama in our interactions. We were at her residential facility yesterday afternoon when this newest scene occurred. 

Short Synopsis of the Play: Main Character, Julie, a middle aged adult woman, feels misunderstood and dismissed since her husband died and she has left the ancestral home she and her husband built together in South Carolina.  Secondary Charter: Mother, large and in charge, often overpowering Main Character by force of will

Stage Set: The Garden Room of a local nursing home, several people in wheelchairs in a large open room with windows looking out onto a grassy area, locked in by doors opened only by ambulatory people in authority who hold special keys to the outside and unprotected world 

Characters: Julie, her mother (me), nursing staff and other residents; unseen character is a scheduler on the telephone 

Scene I: Julie is in her wheelchair, legs stretched out in front of her on leg rests, draped sheet in place over lower part of body. She sits at a sturdy card table, her wheelchair alongside table at an angle. I sit in a chair beside Julie, knitting bag containing lunch, water bottle, cell phone, and knitting accouterments scattered about on table. A few other patients in wheelchairs, dozing or just sitting, the room is large without a specified activity scheduled 

Atmosphere: Relative quiet, patients being wheeled to early lunch, or patients milling around the nearby hallway slowly making their way to the dining room. Ambient social noise in background 

Dialogue Begins with Nurse, walking towards me: “Could you come to the phone to answer questions about a prior surgical procedure performed in South Caroline? The scheduler is needing some questions answered and maybe she also wants a signed consent.” 

Me: “OK, be right there.” (putting down knitting project and rising from the chair) 

 Julie: facial expressions: scowling, acting offended, muttering quietly under her breath, giving Nurse a surreptitiously castigating glance with her eyes lowered 

Me: Walking twenty feet over to the phone and saying, “Hello, this is Nancy, so glad you are scheduling her for a consultation. You need a consent form signed to obtain hospital records from which physician? We have been through all this many times over the summer, and records are all over this town. Yes, yes, I do hold Power of Attorney for Julie. Yes, yes, we can get this done fairly quickly.” (inwardly sighs) 

Scheduler on phone speaking unknown dialogue, me listening with phone receiver to ear

Me: “Let's call the (insert name of hospital) and just have them faxed over. What? You need ANOTHER consent form signed? All right, the fax number is (insert numbers after hailing down a nearby nurse on her way to fix another patient problem and on whose phone I am speaking)...” 

Julie: wheeling over to the nurses' station as quickly as she can, looking even more aggravated, further scowling 

Me: trying to ignore Julie and concentrating on what the scheduler is trying to relay on the phone 

STAGE RIGHT: two nurses simultaneously enter on stage, approaching the nursing station where I am seated. Their facial features: showing concern and interest as they hear what is going on from their approaching vantage point; both are appalled that now both Julie and I have invaded their work area and are speaking with raised voices; further facial expressions: nurses' eyebrows arched as they listen to our conversation 

Me: hanging up phone receiver, informing Julie of the date of the appointment, rising from the chair to return back to the Garden Room, speaking to Julie in a somewhat raised tone of voice due to irritation

Julie: (with highly raised voice) “WHY did she not ask for ME to schedule the appointment? Why did YOU talk to her? It is MY appointment!” (implying that Mother is interfering and taking charge when it is not necessary) 

Me: (backpedaling, glancing at a small group of observers now gathered at the nursing station, both staff and patients, my voice still loud): “Probably because there needs to be coordination of efforts concerning how to get you there, whether you need to be prone or in your chair, and because I would like to be there with you and you do not know my other calendar conflicts.” Way too much disgust in my voice and attitude at this point... implying that “here we go again.” 

ME: I am now behind Julie's wheelchair, trying to exit Stage Left, impeded by onlooking patients in their wheelchairs 

Julie: (speaking in a whining voice) “It is MY body and MY concern, so why wasn't I asked about it instead of YOU?!” Julie's body language is now of extreme consternation and she begins to cry; slowing the cries rise to a crescendo of wracking sobs, tears falling fast 

Greek Chorus: inaudible mumbling with sing-song background chanting begins 

Me: rising from the chair at nurses' station, maneuvering to get behind Julie's wheelchair, pushing her onward and back toward the Garden Room, barely avoid a crash collision with another person in a wheelchair who has now made her way to the nursing station to catch the drama 

Greek Chorus: continues singing in background, interspersed with small gasps, sighs of resignation, humming to the tune of “Oh, Me, Oh, My, What is Going to Happen Now?”) ....sound of drums beating slowly along with the low murmuring and humming of background noises. 

Chorus continues as dialogue ensues ... 

Me: Now back in the Garden Room, vacated by staff and patients, talking to Julie the entire time, cajoling tone in voice, trying to quieten her sobbing, saying in as patient a voice as possible while trying to stifle irritation, “We all love you and want the best for you. It is hard to coordinate all efforts made in your best interests. I know your life has changed dramatically since the death of your husband, but these changes have affected my life as well.” (Again speaking loudly out of irritation) 

Julie: “I just feel like I do not have control over anything anymore. When I lived in South Carolina, I made my OWN doctor appointments.” Wracking sobs given by Julie. (Chorus grows louder as sobs subside and chorus dims to silence) 

Me: “Well, that was THEN. Now you live in a place where all efforts need to be coordinated as far as transportation and yours and my life now need to work together somehow.” 

Chorus in background: “Yes, Indeed, Yes Indeed” (sung in a three note cadence, two beats up, one beat down) “YES INDEED YES INDEED” repeated three times, louder with each repeated stanza, quieting down to silence again....moments pass

Me: “Are you OK, are we good now?” 

Julie: sniffing, wiping nose with back of right hand, sniveling, snuffling, acting perfectly the part of the victim 

Chorus: chanting, “Mother was Wrong, Mother was Wrong!” interspersed with “Julie is in Charge, Julie is in Charge,” ... chanting fades into background as music, drums and song becomes softer ... "mother was wrong, mother was wrong”

Julie: still feeling victimized, not vindicated, then giving up her sobs to quietly playing Word Chums on iPad... 

Me: after giving her a kiss, I slink off Stage Left, feeling miserable having made this scene occur, while also feeling I have done her wrong by trying to do right by her.. 

Chorus: fades from chanting into ambient background noise... 


Post Script: Activity Director reports later that Julie was acting happy, engaged with dominoes with other residents, relishing the cheese and crackers snack within half an hour after my departure from the scene of the drama.  Go figure.

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