pretty tough on floors," the custodian says, dustmopping the debris of holiday
visitors into a pile near the nurses' station, the residents asleep in their
wheelchairs as white-haired but vigorous Bob Barker calls the next contestant.
Babi's stopped eating so there's to be a psych eval with a doctor who's 45
minutes late. When Dr. Chang arrives I serve as interpreter, asking in Czech,
"Chces zivit?" Do you want to live?
yes, yes. I vant to live," my grandmother affirms with a smile, but I know
it's the face she saves for doctors and other officials, a pose which even
through dementia and meds (hard to say which affects her worse) remains intact;
30 years of life in Soviet Czechoslovakia--one of them in prison--entrenched
the nod and smile as a conditioned reflex. Then why won't you eat, the doctor
asks. I'm not hungry, she says in Czech. I've eaten enough already, I can't
eat any more. Conclusion: More pain killers, more mood elevators. But I know
all that's missing is personal attention, someone to hold her hand and care.
But who when everyone she's ever loved has either moved on or been left