Monday, February 22, 2016


As I returned for another visit with my daughter, I looked down the hall and at her usual spot sat Cora, (not her real name) the lady I had agreed to read to. Her back was turned to me and she stared straight ahead, not moving, except to take in a breath or two, her wheel chair locked into place.

Settling down with Ellen and leaving her with my wife, I grabbed the book I had decided on to read to Cora, Harper Lee’s: ‘GO SET A WATCHMAN’.

Quietly I moved to her chair and stood next to her, book in my hands as she stared out, like a sentinel on a lonely outpost. I wondered if she thought that like the rest of her life, the hope and empty promises of life would once more prevail. After a few moments of staring, and my not saying anything, I waited for her to acknowledge my presence, so as not to overcome her all at once. She may have thought I was a staff member just standing there or maybe a visitor looking for a family member in rehab.

Finally: I inched a little further up toward her line of sight and she suddenly snapped her head in my direction, like someone being awakened from a deep sleep. Suddenly a smile ripped across her face and she raised her arm like one of those hockey players who scores a goal in celebration.

“Are you ready for a little word music, Cora?”


She was genuinely happy to see me, and her reaction gave me a genuine relief. I had promised myself that if this session did not go well, I would try to asses my part of it and re-think how to deal with it.

Cora has as I previously stated, a kind face, sweet almost to the point that it masks her inner feeling somewhat. A gentle soul who is forgotten in the scheme of things. The only attention she seems to get is her meals and health, and a place to sleep. There is little she can do, no one seems to interact with her, so my challenge was really to see how much she might get in this reading of mine.

We picked out a small cozy nook of a corner, with a couch nestled into the corner for me to sit and read to her, and as she led the way, you could tell her enthusiasm was sparked by this new event for her. I had come through with a promise, but the promise was not complete, she had to enjoy the time for it to be of any use to her.

I explained to her that the book was written by the author who had just died, Harper Lee, but as I looked up to her eyes she was already in acknowledgment that that was so. She was aware. Then I mentioned to her that the author had also written: ‘TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD’ and she was nodding her head in agreement before I could finish my sentence. I was getting the idea that once upon a time she could read and had read maybe the classics. Perhaps here is where we should start.

As I started to read, as I would look up from time to time, she stared intently into my face, and when a funny sequence of events occurred, she laughed, without my prompting. This was very encouraging, and then I hit upon: “an opportunity for free egress…” Cora suddenly became animated, “What was that word?” she seemed to convey to me.


Shaking her head vigorously I explained it to her in my own fashion.

“It means to leave or exit” I was almost ready to side track a bit and tell the old P.T. Barnum story of: THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS.

I had reached her, she was enjoying my read and my acting as Atticus Finch and his Rheumatoid arthritis. I was a happy man.

In the course of a read like that, one’s mouth becomes dry, especially in places like the rehab home and its forced heat system that dries out your eyes as well as your mouth. So we ended at Chapter 1, and with it a promise for Chapter 2 when I returned. Life is good.


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