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Last Wish Dish
I was starting my senior year project as a volunteer at the local nursing home. Essentially I was a candy striper. I didn't particularly like changing bedpans and delivering food to old people but this place was high end. It was also like my own personal form of entertainment. Imagine the movie mean girls but with old people. That was this place. Sadly though I was working at the reject lunch tables, also known as the chronically sick rooms, well that's what I call it.
The nurse in charge of the candy stripers was a peppy, upbeat, annoying thirty some-odd woman who was a red head. I on the other hand had hot pink hair and a nose stud. Didn't expect me to be a candy striper huh?
" now, Lina, because I trust you," she just met me a day ago to sign me up, "I am going to put you with just one wing okay? People in this wing have either paraplegia or quadriplegia. You might have to feed them yourself but don't worry, they don't usually puke." wonderful. We walked into the wing where I'd be helping out and we heard a man call out
" Nina! Why'd you have to take my cards? I'm so bored without them." it was an old man's voice, obviously, and he sounded pretty healthy. Nina led me into the room where a man sat in a wheelchair with a blanket draped over his legs.
" Mr. Morrison please do not shout if you need something press the call button." she smiled that peppy little smile and he sneered and game me a wink. Creepy but funny. " I know! Lina why don't you keep Mr. Morrison company for a little while?" I nodded and after she left I sat down on the bed and folded my legs in Indian style.
" so your names Lina, is that right?" he looked at me quizzically.
" yep, it's short for Evangeline. It was to much of a mouthful so I go by Lina." he smiled like he approved.
" well I like it girly. Say you don't happen to have a deck of cards do you?" I reached into my candy striper's uniform pocket and pulled out a deck of standard poker cards. I waved them and he put his hands up as if to catch them. I tossed me over and when he caught them, they disappeared.
" holy sh-!" I covered my mouth immediately. I wasn't supposed to curse.
" ah forget about it kid. I've heard worse, mostly from my own mouth," he shrugged like no big deal.
" can I have my cards back?"
" of course, i gotta have someone to play black jack with!" he smiled and I smiled back. We played cards and used his secret stash of butter-scotches as out chips. When we finished playing we both had about the same amount.
" not bad pops." I said
" hah, sweetie you're just lucky I didn't cheat on ya. I learned some pretty fancy card tricks when I was young. Learned 'em from Mr. Houdini himself, I did." he puffed out his chest and tried to look buff and super manly. It made me laugh.
It went on like this every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for six weeks. I basically ignored all my other duties, but Nina didn't seem to mind. Every time she walked by us playing cards and telling jokes and cursing, she'd just shake her head and smile. When she did that it used to puzzle me, but now it makes sense.
" Whatcha got there pinky?" Mr. Morrison, a.k.a Edward, or as I called him, Eddie, had come up with that nickname for me after a long discussion about my pink hair and whether I should get it dyed blue. He had said, " of course not, what kinda nickname is bluey?" we laughed at that.
" it's one of my famous grilled cheese sandwiches!" I said mock proudly.
" famous eh? What makes it famous?" he got me there and after a short silence we both burst out laughing. Suddenly though Eddie became serious. I had never seen him like that before.
" what's wrong Eddie?" I asked, truly concerned.
" just thinking that I want my last meal to be one of your famous grilled cheese sandwiches. Who knows maybe I'll see Jesus in there."
" I think you watch to much glee, old man." I said trying to lighten the mood.
" yes, I am an old man. You know Lina. I don't got much longer left to live. When I'm not just a paraplegic, I don't know any that have all these stupid monitors hooked up to 'em and beeping all night when they go to bed. I have a heart problem you see. My day is coming sweetie. And I'm gonna get to see my Helen up there in heaven. I'll definitely miss you though, pinky." when he Id my nickname his smile returned.
A few weeks later Nina told me that Eddie's heart was getting worse and that he was now bedridden. The doctors said that he had only days left to live with the condition his heart was getting into.
One night when he was just a shell of the man he used to be, hooked up to monitors and life support systems, I made him his grilled cheese sandwich and got permission to feed it to him.
" hey old man." I said calmly. He opened his eyes and smiled up at me with he big warm brown eyes. He was the grandfather I actually cared about. " you know how you said you wanted your sat meal to be a grilled cheese sandwich? Well I'm not sure if I can guarantee it your last but I cut it to be shaped like Jesus praying. I hope that's close enough to your wish." he continued smiling at me and Nina who was standing in the background let out a muffled sob.
" thanks pinky. I really 'preciate it." I fed him the grilled cheese bit by bit, cutting it into small pieces before feeding them into his mouth. When it was all gone he smiled again and looked as happy as I'd ever seen him. " Now I know why it's your famous grilled cheese." his voice was raspy and it seemed like it was hard for him to breathe.
" I love you Eddie, I definitely consider you my best friend." a tear rolled down my cheek and he lifted up a finger to wipe it away.
" that's pretty sad sweetie, that I'm your BFF," when he said the text version I laughed a little despite myself, " but, ditto. I love you too. Like my own daughter." with that the monitors went dead and I was pushed to the side as nurses and doctors rushed into the room. Nina held me in her arms and for once I considered her more than just an annoyingly peppy nurse. Goodbye Eddie.
At his funeral I got to give my condolences to his family and even got to speak.
" Eddie, was like a grandfather to me. He was funny and fun to be around. He listened to me and valued my opinions. I really appreciated the time I spent with him. He grew very dear to my heart in those short eight weeks, and it hurt a lot to lose him." when we each went up to ay our respects to him in his open casket, I pulled the same deck of cards out of my pocket and a couple butter-scotches. I laid the cards under his hand and put the candies in his suit pocket. I even loosened his tie for him. He had once told me he hated having to wear it tight.
As I walked out with the rest of the procession later on to go to the grave-site his son walked up to me.
" your Lina right?" I looked up at him. He looked just like him. Brown shaggy hair and those warm brown eyes. Eddie had showed me his war pictures of him fighting in Vietnam with his buddies. If I compared the too I could only find difference in their heights.
" uh, yes." he handed me an envelope with my name on it. And walked away. I put it in my jacket pocket and made it just in time to put my flower on his now covered grave. Right next to him was his wife Helen's grave. I laid a flower on that grave too. Then walking over to a bench off to the sides f the cemetery I opened the envelope and pulled out A piece of paper and a photo.
The photo was of me and Eddie and Nina on my birthday. I was a loner kid at school and didn't have many friends except for Eddie and I guess Nina. They had made me wear the five year old cone birthday hats and had baked me a cake with two candles
" that's how old you act sometimes!" Eddie had said to me when I questioned the candles. I smiled looking at the photo and gently put it in my jacket pocket. Opening the folded piece of paper I saw that it was a letter.
" Dear, Evangeline, I mean Lina. Aw whatever,
I know you would laugh at this kind of sentimental thing but I just wanted to take a couple quick moments to tell you something. You are the most amazing kid I've ever had the pleasure to meet and I'm sure Helen would have loved to know you. I wish we could have spent more time together but sadly "fate" doesn't want that. Ha! Well I wish I had the power to live longer, trust me I have the will. But I must leave you soon so ta-ta....for now and I hope you live a live a long healthy,wonderful life before you come and meet me and Helen up here in heaven. Goodbye, Lina.
Sincerely, The most amazing old man you'll ever meet,
The writing was done in en and was harder to read than normal because of the smudges. He must have written just a day before he died. I looked up at the clouds making thee way lazily across the sky and smiled.
" yeah, I'll make sure it's a long- long time before I see you again."