Déjà vu – a feeling of having already experienced the present situation.

I bought bunnies this morning. The breed? Russell Stover solid milk chocolate. I had a stack about a foot tall, all ready for my Bingo friends tonight. When I walked in to the room, Louene had a fresh perm, white locks all curly and new. Avis was in a pleasant mood, not always the case. Ruth was her quiet self but ready to play. Barb was as confused and beautiful as usual. Jim decided he didn’t want to play tonight but stayed to watch and listen to the thrill and excitement of called numbers and the occasional “I’ve got it’s,” or “What are we playing again’s.” I had a new player, Dottie, who has watched several times but has never played until tonight. She is as sweet as honey, and her confusion is as thick. Helen and Shirley, newer additions to the group, were present and accounted for, ready to win some gold dollars. And I was missing Ken, on a trip to Texas with his children for the week. And Stan and Norma, absent because of company visiting them in their apartment. And finally…there is the chair that sits empty where Katherine is supposed to be. She was being prepped for the night by the nurse on duty, assisted by Katherine’s daughter.

After Bingo hour was over, Dottie was ready to go home. She stood out of her wheelchair and Shirley was certain she should not BE out of the wheelchair. I told Dottie I would be happy to take her to her room. “I don’t LIVE in this building, though…I just don’t understand.” We rolled out of the dining area, off to find her room, or at least a CNA or nurse on duty who could take over. After three trips up and down the hall, not knowing which room was hers, my student assistant and friend, Grace, found her room at the end of the other hallway, Dottie unsure all the way and adamant she did not LIVE in this building, until we opened her door and she recognized “home.”

Grace and I were walking down the hall to leave, when she asked about Katherine. “May we go and see her?” We walked to Katherine’s room and met Katherine’s daughter.

The oxygen machine was whirring, the room very warm from the heat that emanated from the noisy box, attached to a long, clear plastic tube that wound its way throughout the apartment. Katherine was resting in her bed, her daughter sharing that she was no longer able to respond but encouraged us to speak to her, that Hospice had informed the family that she could most likely still comprehend and hear us. Her hair had been fixed today, all brushed and pretty. She is at the stage of open mouth, drawn face. When I spoke, she moved her jaw as if she wanted to respond. Grace and I told her we loved her and held her hands. I shared with her that Sam is still battling with the squirrels, that Dad has STP’d the bird feeder pole and is enjoying watching the squirrel show every day, but we don’t have any more skunk stories to tell. And of course, we let her know we miss her at Bingo.

Tears could not be held back. Her beauty in her final hours brought back memories of a January day in an apartment on the 9th floor. Déjà vu.

On a normal Bingo night, Katherine would be the only player to open the box of bunny, unable to resist, enjoying the ears or the tail while she scolded me for talking too much because she was there to play.

Katherine’s chocolate bunny will go uneaten. And her chair will remain empty. But the angels are preparing, and her place at another table is just about ready. I hope she is seated next to Mom, or at least nearby. They would be fast friends, yes they would.

So, I am grateful for Katherine tonight. For the privilege of seeing her one more time, and for déjà vu …


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