Aug 7, 2010

Man’s Got a Gift

Of all the residents spending time at the Parker Park nursing home, Mr. Perry was the oldest. He clocked in at 103. Can you believe that? Man that guy was healthy. He claimed his longevity was due to this philosophy: always keep your mind and legs moving simultaneously. Cute for the nursing staff but I knew better. I knew it had everything to do with that plain blue “music” box next to his bed.

It was an unassuming little cube; small and wrapped like a gift with a bow on top. It wasn’t that noticeable sitting there between a vase of flowers, water glass and medications. There was a wind-up key on its side but oddly, when you wound it, no music played. Not a sound. But there was a gleam in old Perry’s eye when he would look at it. It was a secretive childlike look, as if he had just pocketed money from some unsuspecting purse. I’d visit with him every so often and I’d see his wandering gaze settle on it. He thought I didn’t notice but I did.

When the “music” box went missing, well, that was the day old Perry’s health started to decline. He lay in bed, raving about his missing music box, refusing to eat and then refusing to speak. Very quickly, he began to look that 103. Man, the whole place went nuts trying to find that box. Funny thing was, they weren’t sure what to look for. “What is it?” from the nursing staff. “A music box?” from the orderlies. Everyone claimed they’d never ever seen such a thing. But soon, there were several suspects. There always are with things like this. By the end of the day, it had narrowed down to a short list. There was talk of a happily humming nurse walking off with it. Fingers were pointed at one orderly whose last name unfortunately happened to be ‘Fingers’. Man, it got crazy as every resident on the floor became a suspect, even Mr. Kern across the hall in Room 3 who suffered from throat cancer but for the past two months, slept quietly in a coma.

Of course, all who could deny ever taking it did but man, I won’t. I can admit it now; I took it. No, that’s not quite accurate. I borrowed it for a while. I’m always up and down these halls and I look in on every single one of these folks daily. I took the “music” box, wound it and put it under old Mr. Kern’s pillow across the hall there in Room 3. The next day, well, old Perry was up and around, crowing that he’d found his music box again, right where he’d left it, there between his vase of flowers, water glass and medications. He was his old self again. The stunned staff wasn’t paying much attention to him though as they were all gathered in Room 3 with Mr. Kern. He was sitting up rubbing his throat, saying, “Can you feel that? Can you hear that?” I’m no doctor but man, I surely can.