By the time I moved to this facility five years ago, Bill was already a resident. I never said much to him. He was gruff and cranky, so I tried to stay out of his way. I always thought, however, that his rough exterior was a defense.
The aides usually had to bribe Bill to get a shower. Unless they made him a deal he could not refuse, he would only get his hair and beard cut when the weather got warmer.
The aides said there was another side of Bill that loved babies and children. When they brought their children to visit, Bill would be all smiles talking to them.
One year the nurse manager wanted Bill to play Santa, even though he used a wheelchair. Bill was the right build and would have made a great Santa. The staff almost had him talked into it. Then, abruptly, Bill changed his mind and a friend of one of the staff played Santa that year.
One Christmas, Bill got a fruitcake in the mail. In order to make sure nothing happened to it, he carried it around with him 24/7 until he ate it all.
Bill smoked and then coughed because of it. He also suffered from congestive heart failure and cardiopulmonary disease. I thought he was in his late 70s, probably because his hair and beard were white.
In the past few months, however, Bill's cough became worse. The aides had a difficult time getting him to come to breakfast. Many days he was sitting at this breakfast table in the dining room sound asleep. On other days the aides roused him several times to encourage him to eat. On a couple of occasions he was so sound asleep that I fully expected him to pass away in the dining room.
Early last month, Bill was told if he agreed to get a shower, and let activities cut his hair and beard, he could go on a lunch outing to a Chinese buffet. Never one to turn down a treat, Bill agreed. He seemed to enjoy lunch, ate well, was not grumpy and did not cough or fall asleep.
At his last breakfast in the dining room, Bill was not doing well. His oxygen concentrator was beside him. After he ate what he could, his nurse helped him back to his room. That evening, during or right after supper, Bill passed away at age 69. Many of us miss the man with the grumpy exterior which enclosed a heart that warmed around children.