© Richard Louissaint, 2013
The doors to the nursing home opened to a weathered oak wood desk with general information flyers pasted in front and a middle-aged security guard with a receding hairline that resembled the letter V sitting behind it. His voice sounded disinterested when he asked us to state our business. I looked around as I explained our reason for the visit. An elderly black woman with with a blue and white polka dot head scarf, hiding her most likely balding head, sat in a chair further into the lobby talking loudly about a someone named Charlie. Judging from her cries, Charlie was either someone she missed a lot or someone who caused her a lot of pain.
A staff person greeted us a minute later and gave us directions to the Resident Lounge. Mrs. Beaubrun, the reason for our visit, would be brought down in a few minutes.
“You haven’t said much since we left BK,” Sam said, letting the statement hang in the air as we walked towards the elevator. I was still eavesdropping on the woman who had turned to cursing out Charlie.
“Are you still mad at me?” Sam raised her voice, thinking that would get her the response she wanted.
“No.” I lied.
The elevator doors opened to the second floor to the sound of an adult contemporary station playing in the sound system. An arrow on the white wall in front of us pointed the way to the lounge. I held the my arm out against the elevator doors and let Sam walk ahead of me.
The lounge was a mid-sized room with windows adorning one side. It was about the size of our apartment back in Brooklyn, a pre-war one-bedroom that was once a two-bedroom. Round tables were scattered all around with a few long rectangular tables near one of the light blue walls. A TV playing a golf tournament hung near the ceiling close to the door. A glare from the afternoon autumn sun made it hard to see the progress of what looked like Tiger Woods.
“Are you ready to do this, Jacques?” Sam asked me after we had taken seats next to each other at a table close to the windows.
“I don’t know. A stray cat is not a grown person.”
“But we both saw what you did.” Sam grabbed one of my free hands and brought it to her chest. “It was limping and looked like it was about to die, laying in the garden like it was. And like that it was all better and walked away. It was fuckin’ amazing”
“Yeah, just like that,” I said leaning forward taking in her words. Nothing like that is ever simple.
Growing up, I would here all the stories about possessions and black magic due to Vodou practices. Every strange incident that happened in Haiti could always be traced back to the religion that was extremely important to the independence of Haiti. Which is why my Grandmother was a big follower of Jesus Christ, the Bon Dieu. To her and all her Baptist peers, vodou was the main reason for all of Haiti’s troubles. As I grew into an adult I finally saw her as a flawed human being with views i didn’t necessarily agree with.
The last time I saw her alive was at the hospital in Long Island where she had been kept under 24-hour care after she had stopped breathing at home one night.
She shared a room with an Italian woman who had coughing fits at least twice every hour. Machines helped her breath and tubes fed her. I wished at that moment I could rip the mask that covered her mouth and nose. I spoke to her as if she could actually hear me while she was curled up like a newborn with adult diapers under generic hospital covers. I sat next to her bed and held the bony hand that used to make my favorite meals for most of my childhood, griots, boulets, Banan Peze, and Diri ak Djon-djon.
To Be Continued