Hell


I am in the land of the Golden Girls. I am experiencing the nightmare version of Golden Girls. My mother, 84, is afraid to die. She wants me to be with her. All the time. Who can blame her? I would feel the same way. I do feel the same way. She lives in what is loosely termed Assisted Living. Three times a day, she and a hundred or so other souls with broken bodies or minds sit in their wheelchairs, walkers, or the lucky ones who can stand, waiting for feeding time. Not that the staff is insensitive. The wait staff, most of whom are Jamaican, have the patience of saints. She wants me to stay and eat with her. I do for one meal, as I have done several times in the past. But this time, this time I cannot do it anymore. I am being sucked in. It feels like I am trapped in the old Steve McQueen movie, the Blob, but the Blob is all these people and old age itself. This place, this place which should be sacred, where lives end, are filled with faces that haunt me. The woman at my mother’s table. The same name as my mother. Ann. She used to be a teacher in Philadelphia. She loved it. Now she is in the land of eternal sun and occasional killer hurricanes. I don’t know if she ever goes out. My mother doesn’t. But what is the point. Those who go out have no where to go. Well they can look at the stars. If they choose. But they forget about the stars. Forget to choose. The loneliness is profound. They are afraid to form friendships, knowing their friend might be dead any day now. Their stories, each one a story of pathos and courage and cowardice, stories I will never know because now they don’t speak them. They just stare at me. I am like a visitor from the planet of the living. I am an imposter. This is what has become of the survivors of the Holocaust. A quieter, gentler Holocaust. Age is the Holocaust. I leave and on the way out, there is a woman on a bench. Pidgeons surround her. One sits on her shoulder. Like the old woman in Mary Poppins. Tuppance. Feed the birds. Tuppance a bag. Her existence a radical challenge to the status quo. I am ready to face another day. Today I will take Mom to the beach. I will watch her brittle gray hair blow in the ocean breeze. And she will smile. And ask me for the hundredth time to move there and be with her. I tell her I might as well shoot myself. I know in five minutes she will not remember. I hate myself for having said this.

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