I guess he couldn’t live without her. Which is why we’re going to my uncle’s funeral just six months after my aunt’s. It’s all too much for all of us, so I’m going to rely on an old blog for today:
At first I thought that maybe the ambulances parked out front were for Virginia. But when I got upstairs to her apartment, my former hospital roommate was there, watching a Western on TV. She seemed fine. Well, except for the fact that she’s dying.
“I’m bored!” Virginia announced when I entered her bedroom. She was lying in a hospital gurney and attached to an oxygen tank. Beside her, The New York Daily News was open to the TV schedule, and there was a bottle of pain pills on her bed stand.
She looked older, more tired than she did last July when we shared a room on the oncology floor at the hospital 30 blocks from her apartment. When I first met her, I thought she was only 60-years-old, but the 82-year-old former model and actress not only looks younger, she acts it.
When we went for a walk down the hospital hall one morning, pushing our IV poles into the acute care ward, she whispered, “Why is it so quiet down here?” I told her, “This is the section for the very old and very sick cancer patients. Not like us.” She nodded and smiled, and as we rounded the nurses station at the other end of the hall, I forgot again that she was twice my age.
But Virginia didn’t want to undergo chemotherapy. “At my age, what would I want to do that for?” she told me. So, she went home to die. Only, seven months later, she’s still here – and it’s ticking her off.
As I took the chair next to her bed in her apartment, she said, “I wake up every morning and say, ‘Am I still alive? Just take me, would ya, God?'”
“I see you haven’t changed,” I laughed. She congratulated me on my re-grown hair. “Though you looked good bald, too,” she said. She asked me about my family, and told me with a flirty grin, “Your husband is a handsome man.” Obviously, Virginia is still very lucid.
But she has no family of her own. She divorced decades ago and never had children who could take care of her. She’s estranged from her brother, and her parents are long gone. Yet she doesn’t appear to be sad. Just bored. Bored, and ready to leave us.
“I keep imagining what Heaven’s like,” she said. “I think God invites you to a mile-long cocktail party.”
“Sounds good,” I said. “Maybe we can have champagne together there.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to see you there for another 50 years, okay?” she said. I nodded.
“Meanwhile, what can I send to you so you’re not bored?” I asked. We agreed I’d get her some trashy celebrity magazines like the ones we used to share in the hospital, and a bell, so she can call her nurse without shouting.
“How about some chocolates?” I suggested.
Her face lit up like a five-year-old in a bakery. “Yeah, chocolates!”
I put on my coat, kissed her forehead and promised to send her a care package. As I neared her bedroom door, I turned around and offered, “I’ll come back when the weather’s warmer to take you for a spin in your new wheelchair.”
Unless, of course, she’s been invited to a mile-long cocktail party.
Update: I sent her a care package, and a week later, it came back to me. I called one of her neighbors who said Virginia had passed away, and the funeral was in two hours. I couldn’t go, so I gave a toast to Virginia instead.