Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Leaving on a jet plane"

Last week R came up to me when I walked through his group on my way to sign someone else out for his session.  I knew before I walked through that I risked his approaching me and wanting to go out for a walk when I didn’t have time to take him out.  Sure enough, he saw me, got himself up out of his lounge chair and came over, caught my arm and loudly proclaimed “BEE!”  (yes, as in the ones that buzz, fly. sting, and are disappearing from the earth).  He leaned his ear in toward my mouth so I could respond with my own rousing “BEE!”  


I guess it wasn’t rousing enough, because he repeated himself, this time adding a gesture, pointing toward the high ceiling, in order (I presume) to make sure I understood what we were talking about.  


“BEE!” he repeated, looking rather triumphant I’d say, and I smiled, because, even though sometimes I have feared for my life when I’ve worked with this man (he hits hard and kicks very unexpectedly), I am very fond of him.  


Some of the old staff (most of whom have retired in the past five to ten years) told me that, when he was younger, bees used to come and sit on his fingertip.  Apparently, this yelling, kicking, biting, and slapping guy managed to be very gentle with these little buzzing creatures.  By the time I’d met him he’d apparently developed a fear of them.  I’m not sure why.  But “BEE” remained one of his favorite words.  “BAH” (which I’m pretty sure was meant as “BYE”) and “GO BACK”(an exclamation he usually made when he was done with me for the day) also figured prominently in his small verbal repertoire. 


Another of his favorite words was “AIRPLANE!” (R would never be described as a quiet man).  He often loudly pronounced this word, while, again, gesturing toward the sky, pulling my arm to look with him out the window.


As it turned out, last Wednesday, he did want to go for a walk, but I had to get to my other session.  I explained that I’d see him on Friday, and his staff person convinced him to wait until then.


It turned out that it was icy and snowy on Friday, so I didn’t even go in to work.  I checked in with him on Saturday to see if he’d like to walk then.  His staff said he wasn’t feeling well.  


I went over to him and he looked up at me from his curled up position on his lounge chair.  He looked rather glum.  I wished him well, and I told him I’d see him the following Friday.  “Hopefully, the weather will be good, and we can take our walk.”


On Monday I heard R had died that Saturday evening.


Last night I woke up after a somewhat disturbing dream, and I thought a lot about R and how he had spent much of his life with physical discomfort of one sort or another.  I was sad thinking that he probably died in pain.


As I was lying there, not sleeping, the following song floated through my tired head.  It felt like something R might have said to me about his death:


All my bags are packed

I’m ready to go

I’m standing here outside your door

I hate to wake you up to say “goodbye”

But the dawn is breaking

It’s early morn

The taxi’s waiting

He’s blowing his horn

Already I’m so lonesome

I could die


So kiss me and smile for me

Tell me that you’ll wait for me

Hold me like you’ll never let me go

‘Cause I’m leaving on a jet plane

I don’t know when I’ll be back again

Oh, babe, I hate to go.


There’s so many times I’ve let you down

So many times I’ve played around

I tell you now

They don’t mean a thing...


So kiss me and smile for me

Tell me that you’ll wait for me

Hold me like you’ll never let me go

‘Cause I’m leaving on a jet plane

I don’t know when I’ll be back again

Oh, babe, I hate to go.


Now the time has come to leave you

One more time, let me kiss you

Then close your eyes

I’ll be on my way

Dream about the days to come

When I won’t have to leave alone

About the time I won’t have to say


Kiss me and smile for me

Tell me that you’ll wait for me

Hold me like you’ll never let me go

‘Cause I’m leaving on a jet plane

I don’t know when I’ll be back again

Oh, babe, I hate to go.


©1967 John Denver


The song made me cry...which I kind of needed to do.

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