The old man was upstairs in the room in this farmhouse in which he was born. His granddaughter explained that he had Alzheimer’s and would not go easily. She said he had stopped eating and drinking. In the past, they had always been able to get him to eat and drink when he had been stubborn, but not this time. She feared he was dehydrated.
We found him sitting on the bed in the sparsely furnished room. I could hear the winter wind rattle the window sill. I told him we had come to take him to the hospital to see the doctor, but he looked away. I sat beside him on the bed while he looked about the room and talked in a language all his own. “It’s okay,” I said. “We’re just going to take an easy ride to the hospital. No worries, just an easy ride.”
He finally stood and nodded toward the door. “Thank you,” I said. He gestured for me, and my partner and his granddaughter to move toward the door. He followed behind us. We left the room, one at a time. I was the last to go. He was right behind me. As soon as I was through the door, he closed it behind me. I quickly shoved my foot to block the door from closing, but his granddaughter said, “There’s no lock on it. Just wait, and you’ll be able to go back in.”
He stood behind the door holding it. After a few minutes when I tried the door again, it was open, and he was back to sitting on the bed, looking down at his old shoes, thinking about I know not what.
More cajoling and persuading to no end. We ended the standoff by bringing up the stair chair and lifting him from the bed onto it. He gave minimal resistance. We strapped him in and carried him down the creaky wooden steps, and then out of this house where he had lived for eight-five years.
The wind blew across the snow covered farmland. We had his head covered with a towel and blankets wrapped around him. We lifted him up into the back of the ambulance. One of my partners is a woman amazingly enough in her eighties herself, who now sits in the back of the ambulance on our calls, never venturing into the scene, but she is there to great the patients when we lift them in, and she knows many of them, and comforts them while I treat them. She addressed this man by name, but he didn’t recognize her. He said some words to the back door that we could not understand.
“He was a school teacher,” she said aloud. “He always wanted to go to Tahiti. He always talked about it. My husband told him to pack his suitcase and leave the day he retired.”
“Look at you now,” she said. “You never did get to Tahiti, did you?”
Today (a week later)we read his obituary in the paper. He died in a local nursing home.