I was looking forward to my time with Vernon at the Dialysis Center today, partly because of his breakthrough moment of sweetness on Tuesday, and also because my friend Sandy reported that he seemed especially alert and communicative during yesterday’s session. But when I arrived, I saw the ambulance team wheeling him back out of the building. Did I get the times wrong, I wondered?
Without going into detail, there had been a little mishap and he had to be sent back to be briefly attended to at the Care Home before starting his session. So I asked if I could ride along. This was my first ever trip in an ambulance. No flashing lights or anything, but it was kind of fun to sit with him en route for a change.
I mentioned my thrill of getting to ride in an ambulance to Carlos, whom I ran into on our brief layover back at the home, and he looked at me with a sympathetic smile. “If you get excited about that, your life must be pretty boring.” I know. I’m clearly an amateur.
On our return, I told some of the staff I would only be able to stay with him an hour as he was starting so late and I had to get back to pick up Justine by 4:45. I suggested they might have to take him off the machine early if he started moving around too much without a sitter there. We all kind of shrugged at each other. Let’s see how it goes.
When I sat down with him again, after his vitals were checked out and his veins were plugged in, he smiled at me with what almost looked like wonder. It wasn’t just like that breakthrough of clarity he had when he affirmed me so beautifully the other day. But it was something. He was still seeing me.
“You look so much like my wife,” he marveled.
I bit, of course. “I do? How’s that?”
“Your hair and your smile are the same. You just remind me so much of her.”
“Where is she now?” I was expecting a totally far-fetched answer.
“Oh she’s around here somewhere. She was with me a few minutes ago.”
“What’s her name? Do you remember?” This is the trick question. I’m always asking him this one and he almost always needs a hint.
No hinting. I didn’t help him out that time, I swear. It was such a nice feeling to have him remember my name on his own.
I had to give in. “You know why I look like your wife? Because I AM your wife!”
“I knew that,” he said, not missing a beat. “But Vanessa has been around, acting like she is you for some reason.”
Ok. I guess it wasn’t a total breakthrough. I take what I can get.
He was very pleasant company. Listening and talking about music still seems to soothe and entertain him at once so I looked up one of his old favorite’s, Nick Drake, on YouTube and we watched part of an artist’s tribute concert from the BBC. He liked it for awhile, but then really just wanted to listen. So we played some songs he knew and he sang along. The words he remembered he sang…the rest he kind of mumbled through. With Nick Drake, I admit I do the same, it’s totally acceptable.
He has mentioned before that he’s recently discovered the joy of singing, and that seems to be sticking with him. He sang out in that Dialysis center, not loudly, but unabashedly. It was remarkable to again witness him finding his own ways to health and wholeness. When I tried to join in with him, he kindly asked me not to. He needed to experience this himself. I was just there to help facilitate.
But I was watching the clock. There was still 45 minutes left, and I had to get on the road. Of course around this point, Vernon was showing his discomfort in the chair and starting to move around. I told the staff members: “I’ve got to go. Do you just want to take him off the machine early? I don’t think he can sit still for much longer.”
The main nurse looked like she was about to call the ambulance early, but another technician (I don’t know his job title, I’ve never met him till today) by the name Magellan, stepped in. “Nah, he can hang on another 45 minutes. I’ll look after him.”
I went to wash my hands but looked back before I went out the door. Magellan had taken my seat next to Vernon and from what I could tell, was talking to him about a recent soccer game. I could hear Vernon responding, delighted to have someone new to talk football with. This is the first time I’ve seen an attendant actually sit down with Vernon, keeping him company. I know its not in the job description.
My mom actually mentioned Magellan to me the other day, as she met him when she went to sit with Vernon on Tuesday. He had come up to her to tell her how impressed he was that people had been coming to sit with Vernon. “I’ve never seen anything like it in all my time working in this field. I’ve never seen a group of people giving their time in such a way.”
I don’t know if that’s why he took it on himself to sit with Vernon today. But I’d like to think he saw something special in him. He is excellent company.