Life with Patrick

It's a quiet morning inside Linda Vista Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. A few residents sit in the front room by the television. Some watch while others pay no attention to the CBS soap opera blaring from the moderately-sized screen.

Behind them the sun shines down strong on a small patio. Two residents in wheelchairs and a nurse sit at a glass-topped table, smoking. Lillian sits at the table with them, sleeping. Her head tilts slightly forward and to the right propped up by her right arm. Her face is relaxed, her mouth slightly open.

On her shoulders rests a blanket with blue and pink flowers and blue butterflies. Another blanket, crocheted with different colored yarns, sits on her lap, tucked around her legs. She wears a grey turtleneck and long pants. She has come outside to warm up.

After a few minutes, Lillian's eyes flutter open. "I like the sunshine and I like the heat because for some reason I was born cold blooded," she says.

In the nearby shade sits Patrick, smoking a cigarette and slightly mouthing words to himself. He's dressed in his usual faded black jeans and white tennis shoes. His red button-up shirt is covered by a black zip-up sweatshirt with fake fur lining. He stares off in the opposite direction of Lillian.

Patrick is Lillian's boyfriend. They've been dating for over a year.

To wed?

During the beginning months of their courtship they planned on getting married. There's uncertainty over why a ceremony never took place. Lillian at times claims it was an administration issue while at other times she says Patrick's family stepped in. Patrick doesn't believe his family had anything to do with it. Regardless, Lillian still wears two gold wedding bands on her wedding finger &

one with three small diamonds on it, that her youngest daughter bought her when the wedding was still a possibility.

"We like each other real good," says Patrick, and for now, that appears to be enough.

Lillian recalls the first time she met Patrick about five years ago, when she was living at Skylark, an assisted living residence in Ashland. She was asked to work with him on his reading and writing after he had a stroke. They didn't make much progress, Lillian explains, as it was more of a medical issue than educational. But they became friends and when Lillian moved to Linda Vista years later, they reconnected.

"I would have married him," Lillian says, "because he's really a nice sweet guy, ya know."

Human Resource Director Elizabeth Pippa remembers when Lillian and Patrick started dating at Linda Vista. The two used to be much more physical than they appear today. They would kiss in the halls and spend time in each other's bedrooms. Now, they spend their time roaming the halls, Patrick pushing Lillian in her wheelchair, and eating meals together at the same table every day.

At Linda Vista there are no regulations against people coming in as couples or couples forming during their stay. Had they gotten married, Pippa explains, they would have been given a separate bedroom together. Nurse Regina McDonald says Lillian and Patrick have been the only couple she can recall at Linda Vista for the last nine years she's been there. She explains that residents may occasionally be asked to move their displays of affection to a place where they won't offend other residents and curtains may sometimes be drawn if privacy is needed from roommates.

As for Lillian and Patrick, "They just hang out together more than anything," she says.

Lillian likes to sit against the windows in the long hallway that runs from the front doors to the back row of rooms. This hall sees the most foot traffic during the day, with residents wheeling or walking by, physical therapists working with residents and the beauty parlor rotating clients in and out. The windows in the hall look out into the patio and let in plenty of light, without the wind, for Lillian to get warm. On this particular morning, Lillian had just returned to her spot near the windows after being pushed through the halls by Patrick. While Patrick remains quiet on their adventure, Lillian says, "Good morning" and "Have a nice day" to everyone as she wheels by, placing her hand on others' hands and shoulders when she can. Patrick tells Lillian he's going outside to have another cigarette.

"Okay," she replies. "Wave to me from outside."

Patrick agrees.

Patrick walks around the corner to the patio door and sits down in his spot in the shade. He doesn't wave. And Lillian doesn't mention it.

Daily living

Lillian was born in Manhattan in 1919. She married a man in the Air Force that she met while working at a department store. They raised two girls and a boy, while moving from Germany to Texas and then southern California &

wherever her husband was stationed. When the marriage fell apart, Lillian moved to Ashland where her youngest daughter lives.

Her daughter bought her the gold necklace with the curved "L" that Lillian is wearing today. It graces a blue sweatshirt with snowflakes falling onto a snowy branch where little birds are sitting. She has green cotton slippers on her feet; the right slipper has a seam down the center that is busted open. She keeps her hands folded together in her lap, resting on a white hand towel she uses to wipe her mouth. Her eyes are a vibrant blue-brown and her permed hair is dark gray on top and whiter on the sides near her ears.

As the nurses and volunteers pass Lillian they say hello and call her by her first name. She asks the hairdresser how her cats are doing when she goes in for her monthly shampoo and set. She reminds a worker walking down the hall to smile and the tall, stoic man flashes her a smirk and says he's been practicing. When a resident named Bob wheels himself down the hall, he stops next to Lillian and they pat each other's hands.

"It's nice when you have friends you can talk to," she says.

Lillian is happy enough here. Day-to-day, she enjoys observing and ponders things in her surroundings. She talks about the birds she sees hopping around on the roof above the smoking patio and how sometimes they try to peel up the tan siding. She wonders if they're looking for bugs to eat, and the thought of eating bugs makes her cover her mouth with both hands and giggle, puckering her nose and mouth in disgust.

She stares out the front doors of Linda Vista and across the street where a shed with faded blue paneling stands. She wonders what the house's story is and who once lived there. She talks about how she hears the nurses in the lobby announcing new arrivals and says she's concerned that Linda Vista is "like a ship, it's gonna sink."

She says she is tired of living here and misses her freedom. She wants to be able to go outside and to drive a car. She looks forward to a day when she can begin exercising and ditch the wheelchair, eventually walking on her own again. Days, weeks, months go by.

Patrick remains.


Patrick spends most of his day wandering the halls and smoking on the patio. He is one of the few residents who does not rely on a walker, cane or wheelchair. He strolls the halls, stepping slowly, with his shoulders slightly hunched and his hands in the front pockets of the faded black jeans he wears nearly every day.

He looks like a throwback to the 1950s, with white strands in his black hair, and an array of button-down collared shirts he wears with the sleeves rolled up. He has coughing fits occasionally, which Lillian blames on the smoking, and sometimes he has to be brought back to the conversation if he fades away.

Patrick can't remember when or how he met Lillian because of his stroke. But when asked what he likes about Lillian, his eyes become clear and sincere behind his large glasses.

"She's so gentle," he says.

Lillian and Patrick are back inside by the television. Lillian typically doesn't enjoy the front room because of the air vents on the ceiling that blow cold air on her, but today she doesn't seem to mind. On an angle from the television close to the lobby and the fish tank, Patrick sits in a black leather chair. Next to him is Lillian in her wheelchair. The television is still on CBS and "The Young and the Restless" has just started. Patrick silently stands up.

"How are you, Patrick?" Lillian asks.

"Good, good," he responds and walks out of the room.

Lillian moves her knees in and out and bends her upper body forward in a stretching motion. She comments on the large blooming flowers outside the windows behind the television in the front parking lot. She mentions again that she wishes she could go outside here.

Soon enough, Patrick comes back around from looping the halls and sits back down. As it gets closer to noon, Patrick stands up again and stands behind Lillian's wheelchair with his hands on the handles. It's lunchtime and Patrick is hungry so the two are off to the dining room, where Patrick will wheel Lillian to the same table by the back next to the window that overlooks a view of the mountain range above and the downstairs parking lot below.

Lillian wishes everyone a good day as she's led out of the room and down the hall.

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