By Kristen Freeman
Copyright 1999 Kristen Freeman
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Her secretary greeted her at the door with a handful
of messages and a cup of coffee.
"Hi, Sandy. What have you got for me?" Lynn asked
"Three messages from Greg. He wants to do lunch,"
Sandi smiled wickedly. "Mr. Jameson called and set an
appointment for Tuesday."
"It's about time."
"Ms. Potter wants to know why you haven't called her
since Monday," she paused. "And the boss dropped by to
give his monthly pep talk." Lynn rolled her eyes and
Sandy followed her into the small inner office where
Lynn spent most of her life it seemed. "I put a tuna
sandwich and the Atkinson file on your desk."
The tall brunette picked up the thick wad of paper and
laughed, "Yummy. Lunch."
But the small woman standing in the doorway didn't
smile at the little witticism. Lynn looked into the
pained eyes of the woman she had known for years.
"What's wrong, Sand?"
The older woman swallowed hard. "You did get one other
message," she paused and then continued quietly. "Your
The color promptly drained from Lynn's face. She
couldn't breathe. Her legs almost buckled under as she
moved toward her chair. "My mother?"
"Yes." Sandy looked sympathetically at her friend.
"Ok, Sandy. Thank you"
The phone seemed unusually heavy. Her hands were
shaking as she dialed.
"Yes, I'm Lynn Coleman, Janice Coleman's daughter.
Could I please speak to her?"
"Lynn," a male voice answered.
"Yes. Your mother is resting right now. What can I do
"She called me this morning. I thought.I'm sorry I
guess I should have asked for you first, but since she
called me I thought that maybe I could talk to her,"
Lynn replied her voice cracking.
"Janice wasn't given permission to call you this
morning. I'm sorry, Lynn."
Tears started streaming down her face. "Is there any
chance I can see her soon?"
There was silence on the other end followed by a soft
sigh. "Lynn, maybe you should come in this weekend.
We'll discuss this. I know you want to see your
mother, but I don't think she's ready to see you yet."
"But she called," she said, choking back tears.
"Lynn, I think you need some time. Come in Saturday
morning and we'll discuss it."
Fifteen minutes later the intercom sounded almost
hesitantly. "Yes," she spoke into the little white
Sandy's voice came through the small speakers, "Your 1
o'clock is here?" The voice was questioning.
"It's alright, Sandy. I'm fine. Send him in."
Her legs were shaking as she walked through the
hospital doors. Green, the whole place was a putrid
shade of green. It turned her stomach every time she
came there. Second floor. Far building. Down the green
hallway with the blue stripe to the counter. A large
nurse sat behind the counter.
"Can I help you?" the uncooperative looking man asked
"Do you have an appointment?" the man asked.
"No. Ron. I mean Dr. Brook asked me to stop by this
morning," Lynn replied wearily.
The nurse raised his eyebrow and picked up the phone.
Lynn stared at it idly wondering if it way trying to
merge with the bad toupee he was sporting. The man
dialed and asked, "Name, please?"
"Yes, there's a," he paused to look at her, "Lynn
Coleman here. She says that Dr. Brooks asked her to
stop by." A pause. "Really, ok thank you." He pushed
the button underneath his desk and without looking up
said, "You may go in."
The big plexiglas doors opened. Her stomach did
flip-flops as she walked through those doors. It had
been nearly 6 months, but the smell hadn't changed.
Neither had the nauseating walls or the worn
furniture. The tables were still bolted to the floor.
The chairs were scared and ripped. And the nurses
still hovered over the patients more like vultures
Lynn closed her eyes for a moment, trying not to think
of her mother in this god-awful place. She walked into
the first office on the left and sat down in one of
the soft chairs the man had for his patients. The
receptionist looked at her. "Ms. Coleman?"
"Yes," Lynn replied faintly, the atmosphere already
Moments later, a large man stepped through the door.
"Lynn, you're not looking well," he said his voice
filled with concern.
She managed a weak laugh, "Ron."
"Come in. We have a lot to talk about," he turned to
his receptionist as they walked in to the small
office, "No calls."
The walls in the small haven were an off white. His
diplomas hung to the left. A window over looking the
botanical gardens next door sat to the left. The
furniture was cheerful and inviting. The whole room
encouraged relaxation. And Lynn found herself
succumbing to it. She sunk into the small sofa.
"You look a little tense," he said smiling.
She just stared at him blankly.
"Maybe it wasn't such a good idea for you to come," he
said as he sat next to her on the sofa.
"Ron, do you really think this is the right
environment for my mother? This place is horrible. I
don't know how anyone could get better here.
It's.it's.it's just awful."
"I know how you feel about this place," he sighed
taking her hand gently in his, "but it's the best care
facility in the state."
Lynn merely shook her head. "How is she?" she asked
"About the same, Lynn. Progress is going to be slow if
at all. I told you that a year ago."
"Can I talk to her?" Her voice was flat.
"I don't think that would be good for either of you."
"We've been over this."
"So nothings changed? It's been six months. Maybe we
could try it. Just see what happens."
"We can't take chances, Lynn. We both know that. Next
time someone might not be there to stop her. We got
lucky that time."
It was too much for her. Tears streamed down her
cheeks and she buried her face in his chest. His arms
moved around her involuntarily. "Its alright. It'll be
alright, Lynn," he whispered, his hands gently rubbing
The sobs subsided and she sat up awkwardly, sniffling.
"You could have told me this over the phone."
He sighed heavily. "I thought it might make you feel
better to see how she's doing. She's really happy
"And.Lynn, I think we need to face the possibility
that she's never going to leave the hospital. And
you're probably not going to see her again."
"What do you mean?"
"She's not progressing."
"How do you know? She called me. She remembers me."
"I know. It was a temporary moment of lucidity. She
wanted to know if you were alright, and one of the new
nurses let her use the phone."
"So you're just going to give up?"
Forcing her chin up, he looked directly into her eyes,
"I'm not going to give up. Ever." He hugged her. "I
promise." She was silent. "There's an observation room
next the garden. Your mother is out there. Why don't
we go see her?"
It was a small room. The walls were the typical green.
Chairs cluttered the tiled floor. The far wall
contained a large window that looked out on the small
garden. Lynn walked toward it, the doctor's arm around
her waist to support her. She leaned against the glass
and looked out.
In the small patch of grass a woman in her early
fifties played with a beach ball, bouncing it up and
down. She was smiling and laughing as the beach ball
slipped out of her grasp. The woman ran after it.
"Hi, mama." Tears were streaming down her face.
The man held her hand. It was all the comfort he could
offer. Lynn sank to the floor pulling her legs up
against her she rocked back and forth on the carpet.
"Look, she's happy," he asserted.
"Happy?" Lynn choked on the word. "How can she be
happy? She doesn't even know what the hell is going
"Would knowing make it any better, Lynn?"
"Do you always have to be so bloody practical about
"I don't know," she said angrily, and then continued
softly her forehead pressed against the cool glass. "I
don't know. But at least it would be something."
"Yes it would be something for her something
traumatic. She doesn't know, because she can't know.
If she remembered everything that happened.if she knew
what was happening to her, she'd try to kill herself
"I know," Lynn.
"So it's better this way."
"Don't guess. Know. You're mother is living and this
isn't an easy disease to live with.
Lynn looked at him, one eyebrow slightly cocked. "I
know," she responded meaningfully.
"Lynn," he ordered, "you are not going to start
worrying about this. You have years and years, before
this even becomes a possibility for you."
They stood in silence, Lynn watching her mother and
the doctor watching Lynn. Her stomach turned.
"Ron, do know how scary it is to think that one day
there would be someone watching me from some hidden
room as I play on a dull piece of grass. Someone would
be saying it's best if my loved ones don't see me
anymore. Someone will be saying that living in this
dingy green hospital with no real concept of what's
going on is better than being dead."
"It might not happen," he whispered.
She sharply continued, ignoring his interruption, "And
they know what the hell they're talking about."
"It is better for her," he argued confidently.
"How would you know?"
"What else would you suggest?"
She couldn't answer. There wasn't any alternative.
"Does she get the coke and chocolate I send?"
"And the clothes?"
"Maybe. Maybe she'll be ok."
"Of course she'll be ok. She's safe and she's happy."
Her dark brown eyes looked into his, "And you promise
you'll still try?"
She took a deep breath and stood up her hand reaching
instinctively for his support. "I guess that's that
then. I'll keep sending her things if that's ok."
Lynn turned to the window. The older woman had stopped
playing and was just staring at the wall. The eyes
were vacant, but Lynn felt they looked right into
Lynn whispered, "Goodbye, Mama." The woman smiled and
began tossing the ball in the air.