All I Need is the Air that I Breathe and to Love You
It's 10:30 at night.
Something is wrong.
Even after they give her medicine from a mask that comes pouring out into her face, Florence can't stop coughing it hurts it hurts and afterwards she is too wiped out to even breathe she begs me make it better make it better I keep wetting paper towels beg her to keep the mask with all the medicine pouring out into her face she keeps taking the mask off it hurts it hurts she can't breathe it's wiping her out make it better make it better I keep wetting paper towels beg her to keep the mask with all the medicine pouring out into her face she keeps taking off the mask off it hurts it hurts make it better....
Finally at 11:30 at night it is better.
Finally at 11:30 at night it's better...
Maria! Say it loud and there's music playing, Say it soft and it's almost like praying.
Maria is all of teeny tiny.
SShe lives near Florence - Delancey and Essex or maybe that's where she shops, the Essex Street Market. It’s hard to tell. My rudimentary Spanish picks up about half of what she says. The nurse assistant waves it off saying oh she blabs a lot so don't worry if you don't catch it all.
But this night I come in and she starts talking too fast even after I beg in Spanish "Dispacio, porfavor, dispacio”. Because this doesn’t feel like blabbing. This feels important and I need to understand.
The other roommate - the 95 year-old - sharp as a tack, used to live on Suffolk and Houston but now is in Brooklyn near Coney Island because her son has a house - she translates what I miss, not because she understands Spanish, but because she saw what happened.
Florence hadn't been eating for days. Nothing tasted good, everything made her cough, she didn't feel like it. The nurses or the assistant nurses tried to coax a few things down and the other day I got her to gum a piece of chicken or a piece of carrot before she spit it out. I tried the Ensure but it made her cough. I just couldn't insist. So mostly the food trays stayed untouched.
This particular night had been extra busy. I am not sure why. Maybe more beds got filled or dinners were arriving all at once and the healthy people in charge of the unhealthy people suddenly had their hands full. Whatever the reason, there just wasn't enough hands to go around or enough time to make sure everyone got fed. So no one was around to coax Florence to take a second bite or another sip.
Maria got up out of bed, went over to Florence and fed her.
If dreams there be....
In her later years, whenever Florence said goodbye to anyone she’d give a jaunty wave and sing out, “See you in my dreams!”
This is the picture I take after getting a message that Florence is being sent home once she is assessed for palliative care.
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.