The yellow flakes of fungi-laden toenails struck me the most. On feet so edematous a sock could barely fit, those yellow flakes told a story.
Mr. C was an 82-year old physicist. His bookshelf stood cluttered under piles of textbooks he no longer read. His stories filled with details of a life immersed in academics he no longer knew. Having retired over thirty years ago, Mr. C occasionally picked up the latest Physics publication. More often, though, he picked up a book of poetry and sat with his cat to read. More often, he picked up a paintbrush and canvas and stroked his interpretation of the view from his new apartment window.
“I sat on a board for animal research,” Mr. C explained, drifting into another story of his past. “And the vote was always fourteen to one. Should we lock monkeys in a basement? Fourteen to one! Should we inject those monkeys with a chemical? Fourteen to one!”
Mr. C was always the ‘one,’ always persistent in his beliefs. He remembered every detail of those cases, every aspect of his debate.
“Can you take your shoes and socks off for us, Mr. C?” I asked, transitioning from conversation to the extremities portion of the exam.
Mr. C was still his proud, determined self. Even sitting in a wheelchair, he insisted on shooing away his nurse’s reaching hand, slowly undressing his swollen feet on his own terms.
“How long have you had this swelling?” I inquired, helping move his sock into his shoe. I pushed against Mr. C’s skin, watching the pink tone fill the white indent as quickly as I let go. “And the yellow on your toenails?”
Mr. C didn’t know the answer to either question. With coffee dripping down his white undershirt and uncombed beard, with his sudden transition to a story about his upbringing, I could tell Mr. C hadn’t seen his feet in quite some time.
As I returned the sock to Mr. C’s right foot, I noticed a flake of yellow toenail crumble to the carpet and vanish between the shag projections. Encircled in clutter, I knew that flake would stay on the floor for quite some time.
“Thank you for your time and for all of the wonderful stories,” I ended a few minutes later, gathering my stethoscope and blood pressure cuff into a bag. “I’ll be on the lookout for your next painting!”
And with that, I left. A man so intelligent, his dementia was barely noticeable. A man so determined, his medical conditions dwarfed under his dialect. If not for a brief cognitive assessment and a review of his flaky, yellow toenails, I never would have seen that this wonderful man’s autonomy was in gradual decline.
If you follow my blog, you may have noticed something peculiar: *crickets*
Instead of a post every day, there has been a post every few days. Instead of poetry publications on steroids, there has been a quiet lull in poetic outpourings.
Because of Mr. C. Thanks to Mr. C.
On days when I am so exhausted I can’t pull the cover from over my face, on these days filled with so much studying I barely find time to write, Mr. C is my muse. Mr. C keeps me moving forward.
What moments keep you moving forward? What experiences fill you with energy and inspiration? Capture them. Cherish Them. Share them.
© 2016 Mirissa D. Price: A Dental Student, A Writer, A Journey to Share.