Bill and Louise- not their real names- once lived in a 1970s-era split level, in a quiet suburb of a southeastern Pennsylvania city. Bill was a Navy man, served as a cook on a ship during WWII and endlessly proud of that fact.
Louise is Bill’s wife. Both are in their early 90s, facing various physical and medical challenges one might expect to encounter in one’s early 90s. Bill had an episode a few years back that led to an unrenewable driver’s license and the sale of his car. Louise never learned to drive, or if she did, hasn’t been behind the wheel in a long time.
Bill and Louise have no children and very few nearby relatives. They had good neighbors in their little piece of suburbia. Neighbors who checked in on them, brought them meals, took them to doctor appointments and the grocery store, took over the check book and paid the bills.
A while back, Louise suffered a fall at the house. She never came home. After the hospital came rehab, to which there was a lackluster response. In the midst of all that, Bill needed several hospitalizations which ended in residence at a local nursing care facility.
He and Louise were in different facilities for a time. They are back together now, in a county-run nursing home, in a non-descript room with two beds, a dresser, a television, and a lot of time on their hands.
They fight a lot. Louise is the physical manifestation of melancholy and depression. She misses her “nice things” at the house. Bill sits by, weary and frail yet somehow still possessing a spark, unable to provide consolation or comfort.
There is nothing but time now, for life review and trips down memory lane. There is the stark realization that after a life that has spanned at least nine decades, it has come down to a non-descript room with two beds, a dresser, and a television.
In some ways, each has been all the other has ever had. But now that’s not enough.