(Another portion of my short story…)
The next day Mercy was not working for Kirk, because she needed to admit her father into the nursing home for some physical therapy. She’s an old pro at this. This is not the first time she’s admitting someone into the nursing home. See Mercy’s son, Marc, has lost his grandmother about a year-and-a-half ago. She had been ill since 1997 with Alzheimers and slowly deteriorated – until her body could not take it anymore. Mercy had been taking care of her mother for years at her father’s home. Feeding her lunch, changing her diapers and putting her to sleep at nights. But when her father could not endure the trials of homecare, Mercy & her father had a major struggle with what to do next.
Everybody had their opinions on what to do. “I would NEVER do that to my mother” was offered up as a suggestion. “that’s the last place I would put somebody I love” was another suggestion. But nobody was dealing with the day-to-day struggles of taking care of your mother with Alzheimers. Nobody else had to put up with the cursing and screaming that injected negativity into their lives. Nobody else had their heart broken when her mother would answer “no I do NOT have a daughter – you could not possibly be mine.”
Deciding to admit her into a nursing home was the most heart-renching decision Mercy & her dad have ever had to make. After her passing, Mercy’s father could not take the loneliness and suffered a stroke. Today Marc’s grandfather is admitted into the nursing home for physical therapy, in order to recover from the stroke.
Marc comes to visit his grandfather, but the hollers and screams of pain scare him away. So much pain and suffering for a child of four to understand. So he plays in the pristine white hallway in front of Kranky Kirk’s room. This space is full of heart defibrillating machines and lifesaving emergency devices; full of nurses running back and forth; full of light and activity but void of life. Marc plays in his world of endless possibilities and does not ponders about the lifelessness of the space he is in. All this noise of possibilities shatters Kirk’s loneliness. By play fighting with his G.I. Joe action figure Marc disturbs Kirk’s world. “He has an M16 rifle.” he shares with Kirk. Kirk calls him over by asking “what is all the ruckus about, Marc?” Marc continues talking about the M16. You know I had a rifle too, in the war, shares Kirk. The two share war stories – Marc with his fantasies, Kirk with his realities – all in all, just keeping each other company and at the same time comforting one another’s pain.
“Have you always been old? Why does your mom call you Kranky Kirk?” asks Marc. No, laughs Kirk. Kirk shares that his full name is Selkirk Viola, but admits that everybody at the nursing home knows him as Kranky Kirk. I’m not that old – Did you know that I was born August 21st, 1945? And that I used to be a flower child – but Kirk jokes that he, unlike Marc, was a late bloomer. While Marc plays with his G.I. Joe, Kirk tells stories of his days in Vietnam when he would find himself picking flowers for his rifle, while in the middle of the killing fields. This kept him from thinking of the dog tags landing around him, expecting fully to one day seeing his “Viola, Selkirk” tag resting on the ground next to the violets.
Here is where he found his tough shell, which he uses valiantly as a shield to protect him from the sights of death.
Death has become a familiar foe. Everyday the sights and sounds of a nursing home draw Kirk further away from reality. Daily, ambulances pickup those departing for a better place. Their trips – only a reminder of Kirk’s own inevitable destiny. The only thing that brings him back into his day is the times that Marc and his “Desert Storm fatigues” G.I. Joe come to visit his grandpa. On those days Mercy takes care of her father while Marc & Kirk sit and talk.
Marc continues to play with his action figure. “Santa wrote me a letter” Marc shares with Kirk. “Santa does not…” Kirk, realizing that he is about to destroy Marc’s innocence, stops himself. “What? Santa doesn’t come to your room?” Marc asks innocently. “Don’t worry I’ll ask Santa to come & see you – but you have to be a good boy!”