When asked in the McLeod emergency room if there was someone who should be contacted, I gave the nurse Denise’s cell phone number. I warned her she would probably get voice mail, but did not add that Denise had cut me and everyone taking care of me off completely for nearly three months now. I figured if she was ever going to make contact, it would be because of an emergency hospital visit. No such luck. McLeod staff tried calling her for two days to no avail. So I left McLeod with the workably final piece of my suicide puzzle and a renewed sense of my abandonment. The combination hit me squarely between the eyes as I stood at the tenth floor window of my hospital room, surveyed the city of Florence, and realized I was waiting for an ambulance to transport me back to Oakhaven.
I could have gone with everything I had with which to asphyxiate myself, but I would have more confidence using tape instead of a Theraband to seal off the bag. So I decided to look for a chance to grab one. In the interim, I needed to hide what I already had. The walker I was using had a seat which lifted up to reveal a bag. It was perfect. I folded up the bag and stuffed it in the cup along with the razor. I placed them in the walker’s bag and covered it with a long sleeve shirt. I had to keep the Therabands separately because I used them conspicuously, but otherwise, I had a handy “in case of emergency, break glass” escape route all ready to go.
The weekend after my hospitalization was the Labor Day holiday. The therapy crew skipped Friday, so oak haven had a fill in come on Saturday. I was happy to see the fill in was Tiffany. Even though she had only been my therapist for two weeks a month prior, we had bonded. I had explained to her my fears of abandonment back then. Now I told her that Denise had completely ignored my hospital stay, so it was certain I had now been abandoned. As she had been a month ago, she was very comforting, but there really was not anything she could say. At this point, I was carrying around the means of suicide right under everyone’s noses. I was not going to listen to anyone else. I was going to do what I wanted in my own time without anyone interfering.
Something interesting happened. Being in possession of a convenient means of killing myself gave some strength to carry on. Surely it was an unhealthy crutch, but it kept that final push over the edge from happening. The “comfort” it offered hid my mindset well. No one at Oakhaven suspected a thing. Everyone who saw me out and about thought I was adjusting well to be a nursing home resident. I even started walking outside with a couple nursing staff members during their smoke breaks. I still did not talk to many, but it was assumed I was slowly, but surely coming out of my shell.
As summer slowly turned to fall, I began to sit outside for the first time. Only about a third of oak haven residents are allowed outside unattended, so it was often a solitary place where I could forget that I was trapped in a nursing home with seemingly no way to leave while still alive. I would spend the whole day out there sitting on the walker’s seat. My escape kit was always under me. The combination put me at much ease.
I was enough at ease to dig in for the long haul. My roommate escalated his hollering at other screaming dementia residents to the poin the got out of bed, climbed in his wheelchair, and headed to the area across from the nurses’ desk where said residents sat in order to physically threaten one of them. The incident was the last straw for me. I went to Paulette in order to request a room change. I was in a new place with a new roommate that afternoon. His name was John. He wanted a quiet roommate just like I did. After that first evening, he rarely ever spoke and never initiated a conversation with anyone. It was difficult to tell he was ever in the room. That was fine with me. I now had the bed further from the door. A curtain kept anyone from seeing what I was doing. John and I were both highly functioning, so the nursing staff rarely came around. Even better, there was a large bathroom with a locking door. Forget that public bathroom I had chosen as the place to commit suicide. I would never have to leave me room when the time came.
I could never have predicted what happened next. It was the first day of October. I was sitting outside in the late afternoon when a family member of another resident recognized me. She was the daughter of the lady who kept our church’s nursery when I was at the age to be there. We are talking about thirty-two or thirty-three years since I had seen her. Her daughter was my age, so there was no way I could have recognized her. How she knew it was me is a wonder.
We exchanged pleasantries. She asked what was going on with my health, so I told her. I asked that she not tell anyone she saw me here. She agreed to respect my wishes, but added there was no one left to tell, anyway. I asked if that meant my estranged father was dead. No, he was still alive. I cautiously asked about my paternal grandmother. She had died on June 13th. I had been in McLeod-Darlington at the time of her death. I do not know if it was reasonable, but in my grief, I became enraged at Denise. Everyone in my hometown knew my grandmother. She had been the head teller at the largest bank in town for decades. Everyone knew she had died. Denise definitely knew, but I had to learn the news from a stranger. It was the last straw. I needed to contact Denise whether she wanted to talk to me or not.