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October's Treasure

“What do you think he’s looking at?” Maria asked. She bent down and put her head beside Mr. Dewar’s to see things from his perspective.
     
“Stand up, Maria.”

Mrs. Nichols took the fresh sheets from the empty visitor’s chair and handed them to Maria.
 
“I’ve been working in the Alzheimer’s Unit for ten years and I worked at the VA hospital for twenty years.  Mr. Dewar doesn’t know where he’s looking, why he’s looking or what he’s looking at.”

Maria pushed her dark red glasses back up her nose and put her hands on her hips. She studied the dayshift charge nurse.  “What stage dementia is he?”

Mrs. Nichols almost smiled. “You’re a geriatric expert?”

Maria decided it was a grimace. “I take my LPN-NCLEX next month. I’m staying in school, though because…”
     
Mrs. Nichols cut her off. “Congratulations. How much they bump you up? Two bucks?”

Maria ignored her as she struggled to change the sheets.  “Mr. Dewar stares at the drapes.  I think he wants to see the garden but his nightstand is blocking his view. I’m moving it closer to the wall and opening the drapes.”
 
“The drapes stay shut until 11 a.m. to conserve energy.  Rose Gardens is part of One Healthcare. We’re undergoing budget cuts. The first ones fired will be… nurse’s aides.”

Maria patted Mr. Dewar’s blotched white hand. His hand moved restlessly under hers. “Opening the drapes an hour early on a cloudy day in February won’t make much difference. His family pays for a room with a view. He should have a view.”
    
Mrs. Nichols carefully inserted her pen in her clipboard and shrugged. “Suit yourself. He won’t know the difference. I’m going to lunch in twenty minutes. Take your break now.”
 
Maria waited for Nichols to leave before she opened the drapes to the courtyard garden. She watched an LPN push a resident around the gently curving path. A distressed couple was fighting by the Japanese Black Pines.  Their physical therapist, Brad, was eating his lunch by the sculpted stone fountain; a modern, unrecognizable cluster of Texas bluebonnets.
   
Maria decided to spend her break in the courtyard. She pushed Mr. Dewar’s nightstand six inches closer to the wall. She was two feet from the hall when Mr. Dewar groaned.

Maria returned to Mr. Dewar’s bedside. “You’re okay,” she said after a quick check of his vitals.
 
Another groan.
 
Maria looked at the window and crossed the room quickly. “Okay, maybe you like things the same. I’m closing the drapes.”

Mr. Dewar groaned, louder this time.

Maria sighed. What was it? She looked at Mr. Dewar and remembered the nightstand.  She moved it back and stayed with Mr. Dewar the remainder of her break. No more groans.

On her afternoon break, Maria sat by the fountain and studied the not-so-bluebonnets. When Brad entered the courtyard, she motioned him over and excitedly told him about her experience with Mr. Dewar.
 
“I know why he groaned,” Brad said.

“No way.”

“You moved his nightstand. The same thing happens when I move it during physical therapy.”

“Hmm,” Maria said. “I know Alzheimer’s patients can get agitated when their immediate surroundings are changed.”

“It’s not just the nightstand. Mr. Dewar gets upset if you move the small, stand-up desk calendar on his nightstand.  I found it stashed in his bureau two times. Nichols put it there.”

“Why?”
 
Brad shook his head. “She said the same thing she always does—they don’t notice if you change things.”

“She’s unbelievable.”

“One more thing,” Brad noted.  “The cleaning staff changes the calendar page to the correct month. Mr. Dewar gets upset if the month is changed.”

“What month is it on?” Maria asked.

“October,” Brad answered. “Weird thing is the calendar is from 1990. There was a wall calendar just like it next to Mr. Dewar’s bed, also on October.  It disappeared six months ago during room renovations.”

“I can’t wait to check it out,” Maria said as they walked inside. “I’ll stop by Mr. Dewar’s before I leave tonight.”

The October calendar photo was startlingly clear and beautiful. Maria hadn’t seen oak leaves the color of Indian paintbrush.  The maple leaves were delicate peach, deep red and burnt-orange—a leafy brilliance highlighted by an azure sky.

“I see why you love this picture, Mr. Dewar,” Maria said.
 
She noticed a second, smaller photo on the lower right of the page. She bent to study the photo. “What is this?” Maria picked up the calendar.

Mr. Dewar groaned loudly.

“Okay.”  Maria replaced the calendar. She crouched down to read the small print under the second photo.
 
“Damn, Mr. Dewar,” Maria said. “I’m going to make sure nobody moves this calendar again.”

The next day Maria waited for Mrs. Nichols to say something about the 8”x 8” DO NOT MOVE sign taped on Mr. Dewar’s nightstand. A large arrow pointed to the calendar.  Mrs. Nichol’s never said a word.

                            ************************************************************
 
Eight years later Leslie Wilson sat in the nursing supervisor’s office on her first day at Rose Gardens.  She studied the strange calendar on Maria DiGuardio’s desk. “Why does she have an old calendar taped to her desk with a DO NOT MOVE sign?”
 
“Weren’t you listening at orientation?” Carmen asked. “She said to remember the calendar because it’s proof.”

“I heard her,” Leslie said. “Proof we should pay attention to the patients. Still doesn’t make total sense.” Leslie looked closer at the calendar. “There’s another picture. Says something about the photographer.”

“What does it say?” Carmen asked.
 
“It says, ‘Caroline Dewar won the Pulitzer Prize for her photographic coverage of the Fall of Saigon. She and her husband, Charles, live in Vermont.’”

“Weird,” Carmen said.

“Why?”

“I heard Ms. DiGuardio call the calendar something besides proof. She was talking to that cute physical therapist.”

“What did she call it?” Leslie asked.
 
“She called it October’s Treasure.”

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Glad you participated

Glad you participated Jules. This was fun right.

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Some Kinda Fun

I can say to you now (because I'm through it), that the contest was tremendously fun. During the process, it was agonizingly fun.

Thanks for joining in.

Jules