Glynn looked out to the hallway from his darkened room.The light from outside illuminated the furniture and fixtures, casting stark shadows. A digital clock glowed square numbers, 9:32. His mind settled back on the events of the day. He was awakened early by the staff to take his vitals. The aide checked in on him to help him out of bed and give him water to keep him hydrated. It was kind of fuzzy after that. He remembered his first daughter, the one from the first marriage visited and his second wife also came. His oldest daughter didn’t get along with the two other daughters from the second marriage, who never visit; it’s too far for them to drive from Abilene. They are waiting for me to die, he thought. His wife Karla, visited only for a short time.
He saw one the aides push Will Dresser past in a wheelchair. Glynn found it ironic that he ended up the same long-term care facility here in Orange with Will. What kind of strange joke was God playing on him? Forty-six years ago he prayed so fervently that Will might live after that tragic car crash. Will did survive but was partially paralyzed. Glynn blamed himself for Will’s condition. He tried to ease his guilt by reckoning that no one prayed more for Will than his immediate family. But he always felt that it was his prayers that weighed decisively on the scale of life and death. After that Glynn was left with questions. Was God so unpredictable that there would always be a hidden angle or unforeseen consequences to his appeals? Were his prayers that powerful? Was this all a coincidence? The price of empathy and compassion were weighty for his thirteen-year-old brain. The final effect on him was a general indifference to God and man. He still felt remorse towards his prayers for Will, and he avoided Will’s family after that.
Glynn would see Will occasionally and he would revisit his actions and Will’s situation. After the accident Will gradually got better over time. He started to walk with a cane and was even able to help out a bit at the family business. Will’s natural kindness evolved into the fragile stoicism of someone who realized that his life would be one of diminished capacity, cared for by his family, unable to fully live life. In recent years Will’s health declined and he was sent to this place. Glynn never told anybody about his internal conflict except his second wife, Karla. She tried to understand, saying between puffs off her cigarette, “It’s not your fault,” when he brought it up. Glynn thought about Karla. How he had met her in his mid-20s after his divorce from the shotgun marriage to the first wife. Glynn’s thoughts became increasing disjointed. He thought he saw a glowing moth flying by, but it vanished as he drifted off to sleep.
The next morning after the usual routine, his favorite aide wheeled him to the great room for breakfast with the other residents. He wasn’t hungry but managed to drink some juice and eat some grits. Glynn had tired already. The aides were helping Will over in the corner table feed himself. They had put a bib around his neck. Glynn looked away reflecting on his life. His work had been adequate to raise a family. He thought about his job as a warehouse foreman. He retired when he became terminally ill with cancer seven months ago. His girls put him in long-term care three months ago when he could no longer remember what medicines he was taking. Someone dropped a plate. He looked over at Will who was covered in soft food. WIll sneezed twice. “God Bless you,” Glynn thought automatically and closed his eyes. The aides clustered around the table and had Will quickly cleaned up. “Mister Glynn, do you want to watch some TV?” He shook his head and motioned for them to put him in front of the large window looking out at the fence. There was a public pool on the opposite side of the fence.The blue water was visible through the spaces in between the slats of the fence. He could hear splashing and children’s voices. He recognized the sound and he relaxed. He saw gold moths begin circling around his field of vision. Several turned into dozens, dozens into hundreds, glowing brighter. He heard a humming, suddenly felt dizzy, exhaled and stepped into the golden tunnel.