Bringing Him Home
It has been seven months since Abe entered the ALF and though he has adjusted well to his new surroundings, I am yet to get used to his absence in our home. This past week - perhaps this was the first time it sunk in - I finally acknowledged that he lived somewhere else and he would never be in our house again. I kept walking up and down the stairs, going in and out of the rooms repeating: He’ll never be in this house again.
Since last August when he went into the facility, I have been wanting to bring him home, all the while knowing this was physically and emotionally impossible. Or thinking it was. I had gone out to eat and to a poetry reading with a friend the night before, the first time in I don't know how long and, all of a sudden it kicked in: Abe really lived some place else; even though he is alive, he lives some place else.
The next morning I called the ALF and let the caregiver know that I would be there early and could she have him ready to go out. It was 9 am, he hadn’t wanted breakfast and was still in bed. I spoke to him and he got right up. When I arrived he was sitting on our love seat smiling. I said, “Come on, it’s a beautiful day. Let’s go for a ride.” He was delighted. I brought him home.
We drove the scenic back roads so he could see the cherry blossoms, and on the way we stopped to pick up bagels and cream cheese sandwiches for brunch. He went into the deli with me, sat while I waited in line, and enjoyed the comings and goings of the customers. When we pulled up to the house, he recognized it, I think, unbuckled his seat belt and came inside with me. I took him up the elevator which he found comfortable but did not recognize. (Maybe he was in a fog even then, four years ago, when we were having it built). And we sat down at the table to eat our sandwiches.
Afterwards he sat in his recliner and noticed the gas fireplace that I had had installed since he left. I turned on the switch and he watched the flames. I put on Mozart, curled up on the couch, and watched him watch the flames. I felt as if a world I had known for centuries had returned to our living room and all of a sudden, after all these long months, the house - with him in it - made sense again.
Finally the bathroom called and afterwards we went outside for a walk, about half a block, and he was tired. And I was tired watching him be tired and I took him home, collected our things, watched him not say goodbye to the dog and got us in the car. When we arrived back at the ALF, he smiled at the people who greeted him. He wanted to sit down. I watched him sit down. Sat next to him for awhile, then kissed him goodbye and went home.