They sit together—wheelchair next to wheelchair, hand in hand—watching the birds in the cage. As they listen to the birds sing their song, watch them flit from branch to branch, they don’t talk.
They watch, hand in hand.
She comes from the other side of the facility each night to eat dinner with him and is wheeled back home when it’s done, dialysis forcing their split. Nurses will help them both, oxygen tubes and dexterity lost complicating the task of each meal. Memory fading and energy spent, their conversation is minimal.
Yet they sit, side by side.
Those days she’s not there he just simply looks lost. He worries. He calls out her name and asks for her, confused as to where she could be. Not coincidentally, these are the days he refuses to eat and acts out, the days he’s belligerent, stubborn and mean.
Those days he won’t notice the birds.
But that night I was stopped in my tracks as I saw them just watching the birds—wheelchair next to wheelchair, hand in hand—waiting for her to go back.
It was a simple scene.
Residents unable to be in their rooms in their wheelchairs alone (fall risk) sit there all the time as they wait for the nurse to come back. But those hands—those aging hands holding each other and years of memories time couldn’t steal—were a profound reminder that there’s a kind of beauty that comes only after one has spent many years on earth, that there is always a reason to smile, that you should hold on when you find it.
That you should always notice the birds.