McLeod-Darlington booted me out in a hurry. Such an event was getting to be a frequent habit that was about to come to a dead halt. I was extremely angry for the few minutes I was left alone while the discharge paperwork was done up and again on the van ride to Oakhaven. I tried not to show up. There is constant disagreement whether I wear my emotions on my sleeve. It depends on how deliberate I am in presenting myself a certain way. So I tried to snap out of it by the time we reached oak haven’s carport.
The van driver told me to wait while he went inside to see what I was supposed to do next. That was the time to compose myself. He came back out a few minutes later and opened the side door.
“It’s quite a hike to your room. Someone’s bringing a wheelchair out for you.” he said.
“All right,” I said. Great. Another place that is going to stick me in a wheelchair.
“This does not look like a nice place,” he blurted out while wiping the summer sweat off his brow with his left arm. I blinked.
“Did you say it does or does not?”
“Does not,” he enunciated.
“Well, I am probably about to get my comeuppance.”
We kept quiet for a few moments until my wheelchair arrived. It was brought out by Ellen, a tall blonde who introduced herself as the occupational therapist. The van only had a small step between the ground and me, so the driver and Ellen had to help me down. For whatever reason, the driver let me go before I was on the ground. I wound up nearly putting ellen in a bear hug. Maybe that is why she scurried off to let the driver carry me in. Winning friends and influencing people. That is the name of my game.
Oakhaven was, at first glance, everything I feared it would be. There was a resident near the East Wing nurses’ desk screaming in terror. We rolled passed an emaciated lady slumped over in a recliner-like rolling chair. We had to stop so another very thin lady holding a doll and loudly talking nonsense to herself could pass. Then the fellow handed me off to a nursing assistant and quickly left. Suddenly, I was being driven onto a scale three separate times to make sure my weight reading was accurate. Eighty-one pounds. Up seven in six weeks at McLeod-Darlington.
I finally got to my room and met my 79 year old roommate. I actually had to introduce myself three times that day. He had a short term memory of about ten minutes. His fuse was even shorter than that. He also had blood pressure problems, so the room always felt like a sauna. Yes, this was not going well at all, but it was still everything I had expected. The room became a sanctuary anyway once all the nurses, nursing assistants, and various other curiosity seekers departed. Who could blame them for being curious? They had heard I was 36, disabled, visually impaired, and fashioned with a colostomy and feeding tube. They must have thought I was an invalid, but I clearly was not at first sight. So what was my deal?
I could not answer that one myself. Not that I offered up any answers I barely talked at all and never left the room unless dragged out by the therapy crew. Those two points collided when I met Tiffany, a fill in for who was to be my occupational therapist, Lesley. Tiffany and I were roughly the same age and had much in common. She was the only person with whom I bonded for a long time. She is the only person I expressed the explicit fear I had been abandoned. I was still in denial for the sake of my sanity. Spending the rest of my life in a nursing home was too horrible a fate to contemplate. When Tiffany left after two weeks, I said little to nothing about what I suspected, mostly because I was already planning suicide. I believed I had the will, but I needed the place and the means. Very little I experienced in those first few weeks discouraged these thoughts.