“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me/ a Mercedes Benz?”--Janis Joplin
Outside the memory care center, late morning cars arrive with women in floral dresses, men in Sunday suit coats despite the Georgia heat. The gardens, carefully planted, are beginning to bloom: iris, impatiens, lavender. The pathway is planned with small inclines and hills to build strength in weak legs. Around and around we go, my exercise, his vitamin D, as I push his wheelchair. This morning he is quiet: passive, sleepy, though responsive. We stop and chat with the more conversive first floor residents who sit on wooded benches, faces turned to the sun like flowers.
We miss the church service. Instead, we listen to gospel tunes on TV, preachers braying to save our souls. He does not remember being a minister, only awakes from his mental slumber for ice cream, hamburgers, omelets with extra cheese. He concentrates on the fork or hand to the mouth, intently chewing, opening wide. Our dining companions--an evangelical couple who worked for the 700 Club. They bless their food, but she, able-bodied, eats her dinner while he sits in pain from Parkinson’s, unable to spoon up the purified food in front of him, hand going around and around his churning stomach as she, in her Sunday service frilled white shirt and pink pearls, ignores him and eats her ham, scalloped potatoes, and salad.
After lunch, we discuss the Nissans, Toyotas, and Mercedes in the parking lot and look under the bed for his footnotes, which seem to be missing. The families who stopped by with flowers, cheery get-well cards, flutter out in quick departures. By 4:30, it’s just us regulars and some Glenn Campbell waiting for the leftover ham hash dinner to come up the elevator in steam trays, waiting for Jesus to roll by in a Mercedes to deliver us on that far far shore.