“Good morning, Miss Norma. Are you ready for some breakfast?”
The nurse’s aide placed the cafeteria tray on the bedside table and began adjusting the hospital bed to a sitting position.
“We have toast and eggs for you today—does that sound good?”
“Oh yes, that’s my favorite. And milk. Did you bring me a glass of milk, with three ice cubes?”
“Of course.” The aide ceremoniously presented his venerable patient with the glass of milk. “I could never forget my best gal’s drink of choice.”
“Stop that now—you’ll make me blush. I don’t even know you that well. What is your name again?”
The young aide tucked a napkin around his patient’s neck and answered, “My name is Sir Rodney, my dear lady. At your service.”
Rodney’s formal bow brought a girlish giggle from the elderly woman’s lips.
“Well, Sir Rodney, have you met my cousin George? He came all the way from Kansas to see me. Wasn’t that nice? We haven’t seen each other in years.”
Rodney turned my direction and offered me a fork. “Nice to meet you…George. Would you like to help this beautiful woman eat her breakfast?”
I took the fork from Rodney and began the daily breakfast ritual. One bite of egg, with just a touch of salt. One bite of toast—jam, no butter. One sip of milk.
Accompanying this forty-five minute routine was a running commentary on the 24-hour daily news broadcast. I made no attempt to interrupt—choosing instead to let her carry-on her one-sided conversation.
“Shame about that girl in Florida.”
“Those tornadoes sure were devastating. Did they hit your place?”
“Why can’t those politicians stop their yammering?”
“Those tornadoes sure were devastating.”
“All those politicians need to just be quiet.”
“Did your place get hit by those tornadoes?”
“Shame about that girl in Florida.”
At the conclusion of breakfast, I pushed the tray aside and turned the volume down on the television set. After opening the curtains and window, I sat down on the edge of the hospital bed.
“It’s a beautiful spring day. Can you hear the birds? They’re sitting in the tree outside your window.”
“Oh yes. Are the little yellow ones there? It was sure nice of you to come all this way to visit. Are you going to be able to stay awhile? Did you bring your wife with you? She was such a lovely girl. I remember playing dolls and house with her, and we made you nasty boys stay away. Did you ever think back then that you’d be married to her one day? Such a lovely girl.”
“I’ll visit for a bit. No, my wife wasn’t able to come today, and yes, she’s a lovely girl.”
“I forgot…do you have kids? My mind’s not what it used to be, you know.”
“Yes, we have two beautiful boys.”
“I’d like to meet them sometime.”
“That would be nice. Maybe next time.”
“I have two children, too. A girl and a boy. I don’t know where they are right now. Probably outside playing. I’m sure they’ll come in soon. Have you met my children?”
As the familiar lump formed in my throat, Rodney returned to remove the breakfast tray. “Okay, Miss Norma. We’re going to put you in the wheelchair for a bit. Maybe your visitor can take you outside to watch the hummingbirds. It’s a gorgeous day—just like you.”
“You stop flirting with me, young man. My cousin is here—all the way from Kansas—and he’s not going to like that. Have you met my cousin Henry?”
Rodney’s compassionate eyes spoke innumerable words of comfort. “Nice to meet you…Henry. Are you ready to take our princess for a stroll?”
I pushed the wheelchair outside and parked it under the white awning, facing a multitude of hummingbird feeders. I stared forlornly at the frail figure in the chair, lost in her yesterdays. I knew she would be content to sit here for hours. I also knew that Rodney would come take her in for lunch shortly.
I bent down close to her face. “I have to go now, but I’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Okay, bye Kenneth. Thanks for coming. Give your family our love. You know you’ve always been my favorite cousin.”
Every day was the same. Every day I visited, and every day I was a different cousin, or many different cousins. Always from Kansas.
I gently kissed her head. “And you’re my favorite, too, Mom.”
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