Run Bailey Run
Bailey was one of our favorites. Unless he was angry. Then, he was like a crazy dark force. And scary. Compact and wiry he could be a handful. His eyes were piercing or darting or weeping and weak. Ice blue.
You could look a Bailey and conjure up better times for him. He seemed like he might have been an engineer running his own firm. Successful, judging from his classic preppy attire and expensive shoes. Bailey was still continent. He said very little.
Bailey was pounding on the key pad that opened the double doors. He said “I want to go home. I want my wife. Please let me go. I just want to go home.”
It was hard to distract Bailey when he got like this. He was persistent and focused. His shorting memory did not remember his wife is dead and the house sold. “Come on Bailey let’s see what we can find in the kitchen.” He comes. We get some saltines.
His daughter visits. They sit on the plastic couch that is artfully printed so the plastic has a woven pattern. They are next to the upright piano. He calls her by her mother’s name. Then her sister’s. Then her mother’s. Then his mother’s. But they are never the ones to visit.
He seems to be trying to say something really important. But cannot spit it out. It is stuck like a bone. Hard and painful. On the tip of the tongue or just under the surface. He wrestles it, he looks like he might have been a wrestler in high school, but it is elusive, slippery. Her eyes mist over. Remembering her strong articulate father. The father who always got to know her boy friends. Who’s strong arm she gripped on the wedding aisle. Who’s strength she depended upon when Mom got sick and wasted away.
She slides over to the piano and plays a few bars and he joins in with a strong voice and the words flow like a river. A great tenor river that flows as if it always flows like this — thick rich and gushing and not like some meager trickle choked with weeds and silt. She sings along like she always has, and is grateful for the minute. The minute that is like a small miracle in the common room in the cold winter light, mostly unseen by others.
Bailey is wound up tonight and looking for a fight. He doesn’t care if it is with Dorothy who is clutching a stuffed rabbit toy that has become her infant boy child. “Damn it women. It is just a toy.” Or, lurking by the door the guests use to leave. “No it’s OK, I need to leave too. No! I don’t need the nurse. Let’s go.”
It is very late just before first light. My shift is almost over and I am not looking forward to the drive on the winding cow paths home. Bailey is still up. He has been frantic. Walking in circles. Fists clenched. Face tight and determined. He is about eighty but you could mistake him for being in his sixties. Fit as a fiddle. Just not all there.
Winter had turned to Spring. Now it was warm enough and the patients were allowed to go out in the garden, the walled and fenced garden. Ten foot tall chain link, tastefully concealed in the Spring foliage. Dorothy sat quietly on a bench with her baby doll. Bailey paced the garden like a caged tiger. Quiet but coiled like a spring.
It was still light when I arrived the next evening. The drive was easier now that the days were getting longer. The floor is all a flutter. Bailey, over 80 and with acute Alzheimer’s, escaped. Climbed up and out. Over ten feet of chain link. In loafers, Brooks Brothers khakis, and a blue Oxford. People, rightfully, were very concerned for his safety.
All I could think was “Run Bailey, run.”