When we went to the hospice today, Charlie was in another room. The nurses had moved him because he kept trying to get out of bed in his old room. The new room was right next to the nurses’ station, so they could keep track of him better. The could keep an eye on him all the time so he wouldn’t try to get up out of bed and start heading home.
But there didn’t seem much chance of that. Lying in his bed, he seemed quieter, the terminal agitation and restlessness had stopped. Charlie looked at his brother Tony and didn’t move—it was like Charlie was surprised we were there and didn’t have the words or energy to tell us what was going on.
After a minute, he said, "I had a strange experience today." And he tried to tell us about a dream that he had, but he wanted us to know that it wasn’t a dream but that it had really happened, and he wanted us to say that we believed him when he said it really happened. And I said I believed him, and I told Tony who couldn’t hear very well to say that he believed, and he looked at me with a question and then he said he believed.
The story Charlie told was confusing. It must have been some kind of half dream half waking reality that he experienced, and what made it hard for me to understand his story was that I could hear some of what he said but not other parts.
The story was about his home, and somebody trying to take his home away from him, and this person was a communist and a guitar player, and she tried to get the house from him for $99 but he fought her off. He wouldn’t sell no matter what terrible things she did to him, and he kept talking about the way she tried to get him to sell, offering more money and less money and then more money again. And during all of this pressure to sell, Charlie saw above and behind her head these messages that appeared in different colors, yellow and blue and red, and I asked him what the messages meant. He couldn’t tell us because he couldn’t read the messages but he knew that he wouldn’t sell the house for $99 or $77 no matter what she said or what terrible things she did.
And then he stopped talking and asked if I understood. I said I did. I had read in one of those hospice pamphlets that they have lying around here that you should agree with whatever the dying say, so I said I did. And the pamphlet must be right because he seemed happy that I understood. And really, I think I did understand.
Charlie then said, "Give me a hand," and I thought, Oh oh, he’s going to try to get out of bed and that’s just what he started doing -- his feet started moving to the edge of the bed and he gripped the bed rail and started pulling himself up. And I thought, the terminal agitation’s back.
Tony called the nurse, and she came in, and I thought she would try to put Charlie push back into the bed but she didn’t. She helped him out of the bed; she helped him get his feet in his red socks on the floor – and when she had him standing, she held his arms while he took a step and then another toward the bathroom. It was a miracle.
I had to get out of the room – it was too much, and I went into the lobby and sat down. Five minutes later, Tony wheeled his brother out of the room in a wheel chair. They took a spin around the room and went into the dining area and Charlie sat looking out the window toward Pembroke Ave and the north side of Fort Lauderdale.
The gigantic white and blue clouds lifted off the horizon and rose to the rich blue at the top of the sky. It was the kind of day that probably set kids dreaming about visiting Tahiti or Fuji or the islands Herman Melville visited as a boy when the 19th century was still a kid and people traveled across oceans on sailing ships that were like clouds anchored to clean-planed oak planks.
After a while he said he was tired, and Tony wheeled him back into his room, and he and I helped Charlie get out of the chair and into the bed.
As soon as he laid his head down on the white pillow he fell asleep.