She smiles gently as I hold her hand, trying to control her involuntary muscle spasms (twitches) as I tenderly clean under her nails. I’ve brought her manicure kit to the nursing home and with it a quiet, intimate act we share every ten days or so; I clean, trim, file, and buff her nails while she slowly relaxes and eventually dozes off, enveloped in an aura of calm and trust. I treasure these moments, and will never voluntarily surrender them.
She’s been here a little over a week now, and I’m grateful for it as I can be, but at the same time, I detest it. This is not her final destination; I have already begun the process of moving her to a markedly more modern facility which also happens to be much closer to home. But she’s safer here than at home, especially as she cannot as yet walk. Bedridden and all but catatonic for 5 days, her already weak legs had atrophied even as her cognitive baseline receded, and she needs considerable therapy to regain her ability to walk. Given her difficulty understanding and executing basic instructions, I’m told to be prepared for the possibility that she may not walk again.
But she’s gaining a little weight, and, when she’s in a good mindset, she can be the absolute light of the ward, greeting everyone she sees with a lovely “Good morning”, Don’t you look pretty today?”, or “I love your shoes.” This is the Jacquelynn I fell in love with two decades ago, always much more concerned with others than with herself.
Sky gets to visit with me, thank Heaven. Her beloved “Puppup” misses her greatly, and pulls me like a freight train until he gets to her, where, after about 30 seconds of wiggle-butt energy shedding, he settles into his role as her guardian, sitting or laying next to her wheelchair or bed, seemingly sleeping but roused to her defense at the slightest sound or movement. I’m entirely unsure whether it’s the sight of me or the dog that lights her face up so brightly when we arrive, and frankly, I don’t care. The joy on her face is palpable, and she is impatient for her hugs and kisses, from us both.
It’s not an ideal place, and I don’t believe there is anyplace in the world “good enough” for her, but she’s cared for and fed, and the process is underway to move her to a place I have a great deal of confidence in. I weep daily for missing her, and for so many other reasons, too. But this is our new paradigm, and I have to focus on what is truly best for her. I probably should have done this six months or so ago, but what’s important is where we are right now.
With her nails rounded and buffed to a soft shine, I pull her light sheet up over her hands and let her nap, settling into the chair next to her bed after a soft kiss to her forehead. Sky and I will take our leave soon, so as to beat the rush hour home, but for now, we’re just going to sit here listening to her light snoring.