The Katharine Hepburn of Horner Park has made a decision. I saw her yesterday. Dave and I took Django to the park, and stopped on the way to grab Zoe. Miss Hepburn’s sister greeted us at the door and said we’d meet the new caregiver when we got back.
Zoe pulled cheerfully all the way to the park. Then all the way through the park. Then all the way home. She stopped pulling only when I threw the ball for Django. She’s learned that Django gets a biscuit for bringing it back, therefore Zoe gets three biscuits: one for sitting while Django finds the ball and then pauses, seemingly lost in thought; another when Django returns, dropping the ball somewhere along the way; and a third when Django spits hers out because she’d prefer liver or cheese.
When we got back, Dave headed to the garage to carry in a large bag of dog food, and I went inside to meet the new caregiver. This is the sixth one I’ve met since things got hard for the Hepburns. The first was reportedly “an angel.” It took several weeks for the Hepburns to realize she wasn’t the right angel for them. She mostly just talked on her phone. Then there was the sweet one. Then the stern one. Then someone who could only come two days a week. Then the artsy one. And now, the calm and kind one, who seems like she might actually be an angel. Miss Hepburn is eating a beautiful lunch of fluffy omelet with toast and grilled peaches on the side.
She is so tired she almost can’t sit up, but she looks happier than I’ve seen her in weeks. She says she’s decided not to do the hospice thing. Her cardiologist had sent someone after her last appointment, and ever since she’d been in a funk. “She told me I could have all the salt I want,” she says.” I can eat what I want and do what I want, because it doesn’t matter.” She breaks off a tiny piece of omelet with her fork. “I mean, I know it’s progressive, but am I just supposed to give up?”
Her sister has returned with Dave and reminds her, “The hospice people are very nice.”
“Oh yes, but that doctor just sent them out, just like that. I hate him. I’ve always hated him.”
“You’ve only had two appointments.”
“Well, I hated him the first time, and I hated him the second time.” The sisters laugh. Miss Hepburn continues, “I mean, the way he put his size eleven shoes in my face! He sits across from me and crosses his legs and his feet are right up here.” I am reminded that she is not as tall as the other Miss Hepburn. “He doesn’t even look at me. He just says, ‘Someone from hospice will be out.’ Just like that!”
A few months ago, I saw a defining moment when Miss Hepburn could no longer work in her yard. But this defines her yet again. Her back is so bent she has trouble looking forward. She’s got bruises and bandages from surgery and falls. She’s on oxygen 24-7 and still has trouble catching her breath. But she asks me, “Did you see Margie’s cute car out front? Isn’t it adorable?”
Hospice is great when you’re ready to give up. When you know you’re near the end, the people of hospice can enrich your life and the lives of your loved ones in uncountable ways. But some doctors haven’t learned that not everyone gives up at the same speed. Some people just aren’t made for it. Also, they don’t like shoes in their face.