Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Crush

Dana Roeser

Why do they call it ‘‘crush’’?
The man strapped in horizontal

on the hydraulic lift, then tipped vertical,
bellowing, I am standing

up. The nurses trying to cantilever
him into the bathroom so he

can brush his teeth.
Greg described my dad’s

menu as ‘‘mechanically softened.’’
They actually take the entire

rib-eye steak, or chicken parmigiana,
and put it through a meat grinder.

On Irish night, my father, uncharacteristically,
screamed, ‘‘This is revolting!

I won’t eat it.’’ Imagine corned beef and cabbage
in a paste. I heard later that the patrons

in the main dining room were
reimbursed the price

of their dinners. That’s how unsavory
the entrees were even before

pulverization. I had Irish
cream shrimp. And a soaking baked potato.

*

Crush. Coup de foudre. Blow to
the head, lightning strike. It’s annoying

to fall for a garden variety
womanizer with whom I have

nothing in common. And I’m not the
only one. Whole 12-step meetings

filled with women who have washed
their hair. I feel like giving that thing

a blow to its head. But it keeps
sashaying up to me when I’m shaking

my pelvis to some pining, thrusting love song in
Zumba class—like a Cat Five hurricane

in the Wall of Wind simulator.

*

My father begs me, I mean begs,
for red grapes. Red grapes, he says, or

a sip of water—his hand in a pinch—
just one. No, I want real water.

"Thickener" is put in every drink he ingests.

*

What if he breaks your heart?
my friend Cicily says, her inquiring, open

face tilted up to mine.
A moment before,

when I was extolling his charms,
"And have you seen the other

side of that?" I had to say
I had. "Yes, he is very wound up."

*

Sally was lit up like a sparkler,
her thinning gray hair every which way,

getting stupendously drunk
but still strikingly aware. She told

us how her first bone marrow transplant
didn’t take and she needed to get

another one. Each time sobering up the only
match, her alcoholic brother.

Sally was holding a snifter of gin
and then glass after glass of white wine.

It had been a hard day, she said. As I was
standing to leave, she told us about

her crush (as was the case the night before
when I started in at the restaurant

with Anna and Rose, out came the crushes).
She said it had gotten so bad

she avoided going into the relevant establishment
when she saw her guy’s license plate in a parking

spot. Forty years married,
and devoted to his wife. Flirting

like crazy. She was married to one
of those flirts, but somehow

she focused him. His fifth wife, twenty
years. He adored her until his ailments—

the last straw was he, a National
Book Award winner, couldn’t read the

computer screen—got to him
and he shot himself on a visit home from

the assisted living place
where he had been living, basically,

without a hip. Sally was in the
other room.

*

Sally was on prednisone for years.
Between that and the forced menopause,

she had several compression fractures
in her spine. Crush. Use this

word in a sentence:
her spine was crushed.

*

In my father’s room
I eat bites from a piece

of fake "coffee cake" from
his tray. They’ve upgraded

his diet somewhat (from
"pulverized" to "smashed," I say

in the "Care" meeting—which makes
everyone laugh). But it’s too late.

He eats almost nothing.
I’m going to offer him

the sip of the water
he’s not allowed to have—

today he starts Hospice
so why not start breaking the rules

right away?—but he forgets
he asked. I’ve been assured

Hospice is going to give "pleasure
foods" and a "comfort tray" (I can’t get

a clear read of what’s on this
tray, besides morphine and Ativan.)

*

Grief suffuses Hoy Center
Floor 2 A especially at night. From

"pulverize" to "smash." The chair
seat slides up apparently so Dad’s

bathroom mate can be put in it lying down.
Then he slides down the metal frame when the

nurses tilt it upward. There’s some
maneuver he needs to do that he and

they are screaming about. I’m supposed
to keep Dad’s door shut.

*

The day room
gets afternoon sun. I hear

televisions. I dreamt last night
my husband was a pile of musty

magazines, with lint and dust balls,
and my love wore a short-sleeved

policeman’s shirt that was too tight and riding
up with snug blue jeans

and an expression like, I’ve got everything
under control here. I’ll supervise.

Ha. He may as well have been wearing
a "Superego" sign—though of course his suitability

for the job was open to question.

*

The day room gets afternoon sun.
I hear televisions. (My father is past

that. He never wants to watch.) A woman
in a wheelchair (come to think of it,

they’re all in wheelchairs) howls in the day
room. Sundowning has commenced

and my dad demands a wheelchair ride
to his old apartment. I don’t know now that

tomorrow he’ll be too sick and drugged to
ask. The day room gets afternoon sun.

It lays down panels of light (it’s spring
but who would know it—it’s been

unseasonably cold the whole month) on the
furniture, on the few people doing nothing

in wheelchairs (except the howler), on the
whiteboard probably, reviewing the day of

the week, the date, and the geographic
coordinates of the Hoy Center.

Grief suffuses the place
especially at night. This is the last

night of my dad’s lunatic demands. He
wants a grape. He wants to go to the

library in the residence and read The
Economist
. He wants his old life—

and his old routine—back. They put him into
his pressed red-checked shirt. The day room

gets afternoon sun. I am crushed
by its beauty.