Topic: The Way Home by Ruth Plank

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A 2013 Memoir and Local History Competition entry.

Archived version here.

The words of the old song ‘There’s no place like home’ sing in my head. Is ‘home’ where you want to be; where you are; where you should be; where you need to be? I’m looking for answers and find none.

I’m sitting beside the bed of my 64-year old sister-in-law now residing in a rest home. All her life she has been reasonably independent, regardless of the fact that she has an intellectual disability. For most of her adult life she’s received help in her home, unable to completely care for herself or comply with her medical needs as she suffers from diabetes.

A few months ago illness forced her into care. She hates it.

“I want to go home, back to my own place,” is her constant cry, not realising she no longer has a home to go back to. At each visit the only conversation consists of this plea. “I want to go home.”

I’m aware that she’s a somewhat difficult patient and has been prescribed medication to keep her calm. After sitting with her for a few minutes she gives me a questioning look.

“Are we going home now? Come on, let’s go home now.”

It breaks my heart, but I can do nothing.

She becomes agitated, tries to climb over the safety rail around her bed. She’s almost incoherent and desperate to get up.  I speak quietly trying to allay her distress.

 “It’s all right, my dear, it’s all right. You just rest a while. When you’re a little better I’ll take you home.”

I was lying and suspect she knew this only too well.

She talks a lot about her much-loved family. Her parents  and brother have all passed away and I used to take her to the cemetery to visit them, where she laid fresh flowers and talked to them in that quiet place.

 I feel the need to bring them closer to her, to bring her some comfort so that she can imagine them all and feel a little happier, perhaps even slightly more content.

“Your Mum, Dad and your brother are waiting for you at home, you know.” I speak quietly. “They’ve missed you since you’ve been away.”

She tries, again, to sit up so I put my arm around her bony shoulders for support. As she looks towards the end of the bed a wonderful smile lights up her thin and drawn face. Her blue eyes still have a light in them, albeit rather dimmed. I lean towards her to catch the words that whisper from her lips.

“Oh! Hi, Mum. Hi, Dad.”

Her stick-thin hand lifts, flails, and wavers in space, as she calls her brother’s name.

“Oh! You’re here, too; you’ve all come to meet me.”

She turns her face towards me, smiles deep into my eyes and says, “Now you don’t need to worry about me any more, love, because I’m going home.”

Her hand slips from mine as she falls back against the pillows a split second before her eyes close for the last time.

Mercifully, she has, at last, found her way home.


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