Parking the car in the southern most end of the car park, I checked my reflection in the mirror. Freckles danced across my nose in a slight spattering, and I felt myself frowning and then reprimanded myself. Freckles were nothing to worry about. I climbed out and shut the car’s door, all too aware of the day’s heat as it struck hard after the air conditioned interior of the Ford. Locking the car with the remote control on the key chain, I hurried towards the main entrance of the hospital.
There were several people milling about, the old gentleman from the same ward as Aunt Lucinda’s sitting on the bench under the overhanging veranda, protected from the heat as he smoked his cigarette. He gave me friendly wave.
“Good afternoon Mr Peterson, they looking after you?” I asked in a friendly voice.
The old man coughed and wheezed, thumping his chest with a ham sized fist. “Can’t complain, love.” He murmured between coughs.
I gave him a smile of sympathy as a young nurse came scurrying out pushing a wheelchair. “There you are Mr Peterson.” The young girl exclaimed as if telling of a child in a high pitched sing song voice. “Come on, back to your room, you don’t want to miss supper now do you?”
“It’s a bit bloody early for supper!” Mr Peterson exclaimed in protest, but clambered unsteadily aboard the wheelchair with the nurses assistance. She tucked him in fondly and smoothed the bun that held her hair back from her face.
“Afternoon Miss Shannessy, your Aunt is not feeling very well today. She’s sleeping.”
“That’s alright, I’ll just sit with her a bit. My turn to feed her tonight.” I smiled at the young nurse and followed them into the building proper. The main entrance of the hospital was beautifully appointed and modern. It had a freshly painted smell and feel.
Since Aunt Lucinda’s fall almost six months ago, the family had taken it in turns to visit with her daily and ensure she had everything she needed. But since I was the only one not working, or with other claims on my time, the others sort of leaned on me to do the feeding. Which was fair enough, I was single with no family of my own. And my sisters both had a hard time with finding time to eat with their own families after work. Plus I was the eldest. My best friend Rosalie thought I was being used, but wasn’t that what family was for, to support each other?
The nursing home, Acacia Lodge was only new, it had been built only five years before and seemed luxurious. I could not help but wish I lived there myself sometimes. Was it so bad, a private room with meals cooked for you and daily maid service, plus nurses on call? I smiled to myself as I thought this and pushed the numbers into the security lock and the doors clicked open for me. This second set of doors locked the way into the main part of the nursing home, it was more for the residents security than anything else as some of them had Alzheimers and would try to “escape” to go home.
The reception foyer was large and held a large screen TV on the main wall that directed visitors to the respective levels and showed images of the landscaped grounds. During business hours, it was staffed by a very professional looking woman who I knew was called Judy, but she had knocked off work some thirty minutes ago and the plastic screen had been drawn down over the little cubicle office she used.
I knew the way off by heart anyway, but still found myself glancing at the large TV display almost as if checking that the rooms hadn’t been moved, or the names of the wings changed since the previous day. Ahead of me, through decorative glass & mahogany panels I could see the large communal living room where some of the residents would be watching the final few minutes of “Deal or No Deal” while they waited to be called to dinner. I could hear the communal intake of breath and joyous woops among the chatter. Tonight’s contestant apparently was doing well, and still had the major prize and the car on the board.
Turning the now familiar route, I entered another set of doors, these ones were propped open allowing staff easy access to move clients from their rooms to the dining room, or for those too unwell to leave their room, for the staff to bring in the meals on trays. There was a young girl, not much older than fifteen I thought, pushing a dinner cart ahead of her. She was accompanied by a nurse who gave me a smile and nod of recognition. The smells of the food on their trays made my stomach rumble, but it would be at least another hour before I could get home, perhaps I should pick up some take-away on the way home I thought ruefully.
Washing my hands with the antiseptic cleaner that stood in a silver canister on the wall by the door to my aunt’s room before entering the room. My aunt was indeed sleeping, long silvery white hair was spread out on either side of a small doll like face. Aunt Lucinda was half propped up on her pillow, her hands resting over her stomach. Beside her, on the wooden bedside table, a radio was playing softly. Her favourite tune. Moonlight Sonata by Chopin. The window was open slightly, allowing a cool breeze to stir the roses on the window sill. I moved forwards and closed the window, it would soon be getting dark and the night air might still bring a chill – even in full summer.
Aunt Lucinda murmured softly and I turned to see her wide brown eyes watching me, a puzzled expression on her face. Ashamed that I had startled her rest, I leaned over her and kissed her forehead gently. Her skin was tight as aged leather and she smelled as usual of her geranium scent. “Hello Lulu.” I said softly and squeezed her hand. The skin felt scaly, ancient and bone thin.
She squeezed my hand in response and smiled. “Lottie.” She murmured sleepily.
I smiled and touched her cheek gently, she had confused me with my grandmother – her sister. People did say we looked a lot a like at the same age. “Gail, aunty Lu. How are you?”
“Tired.” Came her soft response and she moved slightly as if trying to sit up. “What day is it?”
“Tuesday.” I pulled open the wardrobe, scanning the contents quickly and hanging up the clothes from the bag I had bought with me. It was easier for me to do the washing than send it to the hospital laundromat. Aunty Lucinda had some beautiful clothes, and some of them had been ruined by the dry cleaning. It seemed to make her happy that they were being cared for properly. “That will be dinner.” I smiled, turning to face her as the door opened from the outside.