CREDOS : Albert

Working in a hospital with recent stroke patients was an all-or-nothing proposition. They were usually so grateful to be alive or just wanted to die. A quick glance told all. Albert taught me much about strokes. One afternoon while making rounds I’d met him, curled in a fetal position. A pale, dried-up old man with a look of death, head half-buried under a blanket.

At the nurse’s station, an attendant provided some history. He had no one. He’d lived too long. Wife of thirty years dead, five sons gone. Well, maybe I could help. A chunky but pretty divorced nurse avoiding the male population outside of work, I could satisfy a need. I flirted. The next day I wore a dress, not my usual nursing uniform but white. No lights on. Curtains drawn.

I pulled a chair close to his bed, crossing my shapely legs, head tilted. I gave him a perfect smile. “Leave me. I want to die.”

He looked annoyed. Two days later during shift report, I learned that Albert had asked when I’d be “on.” Outside his room, I’d tell others not to bother “my Albert.” Soon he agreed to “dangle,” sit on the side of the bed to build up sitting tolerance, energy and balance.

He agreed to “work” with physical therapy if I’d return “to talk.” Two months later, Albert was on a walker. By the third month, he’d progressed to a cane. Fridays we celebrated discharges with a barbecue. Albert and I danced to Edith Piaf. He wasn’t graceful, but he was leading. And wanted to begin life afresh. —