This is a unique post veering away from short story fashion. It is about a woman named Gloria. When I first met her she was mentally disturbed. Her family was crying because they didn’t recognize her.
Gloria was admitted to the hospital and escorted to her room on the geriatrics ward. Her hair lay like a silver mop on her head, her tall slender body stretched over her bed like a twisted noodle. When night fell her body would convulse in sexual thrusts.
Agitated, confused and distant. “Hi Gloria,” I said to her when I met her. “No shit.” she said when someone tried to address her.
“i like your hair.” I said to Gloria. “You know damn well.” Gloria said.
Gloria was an elderly woman who had been the victim of sexual abuse. She was so so distant when I first met her. Her mind had been locked up. Her slender face was filled with ripples; little waves engrained in her skin, one for every year she’d been living.
The head of her bed was raised to a 45 degree angle when I came in to check her vital signs. She was in the room alone, her head down, nibbling at a bowl of Campbells chicken noodle soup.
It was like she wasn’t in the room though. Her body was there, her wrinkled face, but something was missing. I tried to talk her. Every time she heard words, she responded with, “Oh, I see.” And she made sure to lengthen the words so the phrase was drawn out. “Ohh, I (emphasize I) seeeeeeee.”
Then out of no where she said to me, “Where are all the noodles?” “Oh you talked!” I exclaimed. “I don’t know, I think you ate them all.”
“Oh, I seeeee.”
The doctor came in her room for a brief visit.
“Do you know where you are, Ms. Floyd?” The doctor inquired.
Gloria naturally replied, “Rio.” The olympics had been playing non-stop in her room the past few days, so it made sense that she thought she was in Brazil.
The doctor laughed walking out of the room, “She’s really confused.”
In the night, a confused and frustrated Gloria managed to pull out a catheter that had been abrasively inserted into her vagina–the balloon and all. She also single handedly pulled out the IV needle that had been jabbed into her arm.
The next morning someone placed a square of fabric in her hands with little pom-poms and pieces of yarn dangling from it– to keep her hands busy. She impulsively moved the fabric back and forth between her fingers.
Someone else placed a baby doll in her arms. She held the baby doll close to her and placed her large wrinkled hands gently on the baby’s head.
“Do you want to kiss the baby?” a fellow coworker asked the woman. Gloria brought the baby’s lips to hers and kissed her softly. What started out sweet turned into something strange. She began to make-out with the baby, shoving her tongue into the doll’s plastic mouth. She stopped soon after though, as if some radar inside told her to stop.
In the afternoon, a combative and urine-retaining Gloria was escorted to the restroom. She fought with me but we managed to make it there without totally crashing into the wall.
“Step back till you feel the toilet touching your legs..
Good. Okay reach behind you. ..
slowly lower yourself down!” I said.
Against my instructions she impulsively fell onto the toilet with all her upper torso weight, slamming her head hard against the metal faucet above the toilet. I felt really bad for her. “Ouch.” she said softly, hanging her head in misery.
I pulled up the plastic commode and sat on it next to Gloria, who kept shaking her head. I held her head gently. “I’m sorry that happened.” I said.
I felt like I was babysitting and she was potty training. I sat patiently on the commode, she sat nervously on the toilet.
She continued to make impulsive movements and began to hum and sing. She’d make up little songs about nature, or a cow. She said to me, “Do you know what a skirt chaser is?”
“I think so.” I said.
“I married one.” she confessed.
“He was just after sex huh?” Gloria nodded her head. She then surprised me by these words sung with utmost delicateness: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me.”
She sang the whole song out beautifully. She then peed a bloody fountain of urine. I was so impressed. “That was such a good pee!!” I affirmed her accomplishment. She smiled, pleased.
“Hmmm, hmmm, la, la hmmm” she went back to humming.
I prepared a basin of warm soapy water and then poured it over her while she hummed. She loved it. I put lotion on her and she shivered because it was cold. I wrapped her up in towels and she loved that too, holding them up close to her chest and swinging one over her shoulder. After she was clean and dry we began the journey up off the toilet. It was actually much easier trying to get her into the bathroom then to get her off of the toilet.
The OCD movements were more rapid and powerful than before. She moved up and down, up and down so quickly and uncontrollably. “You have to stop.” I said firmly. “We are standing up now.” Finally I got her to stay up, hold on to her walker and move forward.
“Good, Gloria. Good.”
Gloria’s three sister’s had driven to see her from Virginia beach and they clung to her. The sister trio remained at her bedside for 8-10 hours. The one sister fed her pie and told me all about Thanksgiving’s at Gloria’s house, describing exuberant family reunions and holidays spent at Gloria’s house. “And boy, can she bake!!” Patty exclaimed. “All sorts of pies, and bundt cakes! All flavors, she makes butter rum, carrot raisin, apple…” Gloria was beaming and nodding, and humming.
The next morning.
I almost always struggle with irritability when I wake up in the mornings, with the exception of mornings when I have the house to myself. If I had known what this particular day would give to me, I would have had a much better attitude going to work.
When I arrived on the unit, the Lord’s providence was already working on my behalf. The mentally ill man who pooped and peed on himself frequently was taken downstairs for a long test and the blind woman who crawled everywhere had a hired sitter to help bring order in her room. And Gloria was fast asleep.
The nurse and I tip toed around Gloria although it wouldn’t have made a difference. She was knocked out cold. She lay curled up in fetal position, wrapped tightly like Lazarus in white sheets, with the baby doll resting on top her head.
“We are letting her sleep.” The nurse said to me, bracing herself too for another rough day.
It turned out to be the best day ever, for the reason which I am about to tell you.
When Gloria’s sisters arrived a little later in the morning, they were surprised too by Gloria’s deep slumber. They waited for her to wake up on the couch, with crochet materials in hand.
4 hours later…
One of the sisters stepped outside of the room into the hall. “You won’t believe it.” she said to me. “You won’t believe it.” she was obviously struck by lightning or something of the sort. “You just won’t believe it. She’s back to normal.” 🙂 “She’s back.” the sister said, still in shock. “Gloria’s back.”
I followed the sister into the room. Gloria was sitting upright in bed, in a perfect straight line in the center of the bed with her head raised about 30 degrees. She was still wrapped up in white, but this time her eyes were open. She looked over at me and blinked. She gave me a half smile, and exclaimed, “I recognize you!”
“I remember you from yesterday,” she said. “You were wearing that shirt too. Lovely shirt.” (she was referring to the Princess Elsa-puts- snow flakes-in-the-sky scrub top I was wearing)
It didn’t matter that she had never seen that top before. Gloria had her mind back. She was cognizant.
“She’s talking just like she used to talk!” Patty exclaimed to me, with so much gratitude and relief and excitement.
“She said she dreamed about our father last night!” The sister ran out of the room to make a victorious phone call to a family member and I got to know the new Gloria. It was like I was interacting with an entire human being.
I got her up to pee again and it was 100 times easier than the day before. The OCD movements were gone. She didn’t bang her head against the faucet.
The only thing that stayed the same was the singing. Only this time she sat on the toilet and sang “I surrender all”, which she humorously commented as being the song that plays ‘when you want to go to the altar’. She sang her favorite hymn in perfect tone and rhythm, starting out with the first verse: “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses.” and when she got to the chorus it went like this: “And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.”
when sex goes sour
The man who sexually abused Gloria was the same age as Gloria’s father. And Gloria married this man. She was mistreated in a really intense way by the man she had vowed to love forever.
Because of her husband’s old age, Gloria never was able to get pregnant. She told me in the bathroom, “my sister’s were all very generous with their children though, and i’m grateful for that.”
Having children was something she had wanted ever since she was a little girl.
To think that the very act that the Lord designed to be goodness for us humans, and to create goodness was so used for evil… and that she never even got to have kids. (after all that sex)…
I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness shoot through my heart when she told me that.
However, I was reminded today though that even though men may act wickedly, God is not wicked. God offers the hope of an eternity of peace to moral beings who have severely failed at being good…, for He is supremely and at all times, good.
I will end with this. When Gloria woke up, it was similar to the transformation that a caterpillar undergoes within his chrysalis. She woke up human again. Her understanding was restored to her and with her impulsive sexual movements cast aside, her personhood was given just a little bit more dignity.