In such a place, people come and people go, just like trains in a train station. Nobody ever stays for very long. It's not a place to live, it's the last stop before you reach Death's door. It's the place you go to get to the other side.
Cream-colored cinderblock walls. The continual whirr of electronic equipment. The occasional crash cart. But, here, in this place, we tend to just let them go.
Mable had cold hands,
She was the first patient I ever really allowed myself to become attached to. She was a tiny little slip of a thing, with a fluffy cloud of blue-grey hair. And she always wore her glasses with the cherry-red frames, hanging onto her ecentricity like it was a life preserver and her ship was sinking.
Mable was frail in body but her mind was as sharp as a tack.
She liked Steinbeck and listened to Earth, Wind, and Fire on her Diskman.
I didn't know much about her life, beyond what she told me on those rare occasions when she would pull her nose out of a book. Something about Mable broke my heart, though. On the outside, she was a sweet, eccentric resident, but underneath that, I sensed such an extreme sadness that existed as a dull ache beneath every move she made.
I could tell she was sad. I could tell she was tired.
And she was always complaining that her hands were cold, just about the only thing I ever heard her complain about.
I don't know where the idea came from, but it was Christmas time, snow sifting down over the retirement home, insulating it further from the rest of the world. It was always such a depressing time to be working there; there was just so much sadness. Every year, the hope would build among the residents. It was strong, too, something that you could almost feel when you walked through the door, a tangible feeling of anticipation. And every year, they were disappointed.
Mable chirped about this and that the way she usually did, but I could tell that she felt it too.
I couldn't stand to see Mable disappointed. She was too good, too sweet.
So I decided to knit Mable a pair of gloves for Christmas, because her circulation was poor and her hands were always cold. They were the same red as the frames of her glasses, and I never told her they were from me.
Mable's new gloves were all that saved her from the numbing despair she suffered at the retirement home. She had no idea who'd sent them but she felt comforted that someone, somewhere still cared. She told me this, and I was tempted to tell her that it had been me, that I cared. But I never did.
She died just a few months after that, and I quite my job at the retirement home because I couldn't cope with the sadness that that place contained.
I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth one morning when there was a knock at the door. When I opened it, there was nobody there. But there was a pair of red knit gloves on the stoop, and a tiny, handwritten note that said, simply,
Thank you. M.