After spending time with Mom for her birthday I ventured north to Albuquerque. I haven’t been back to Albuquerque since the last time I saw my dad alive. I held his hand for as long as I could before having to catch a plane back to Atlanta. Dad was moved to a skilled nursing facility shortly after that. He died a month later, also in Albuquerque.
So I had mixed emotions about returning to the city. Of course it was blazing hot but I felt welcomed by all of the people I came in contact with, from the hotel staff to cab drivers to restaurant servers. I also finally had the opportunity to see the place where Dad passed away. Fortunately, the place seems to be well-run, clean and has plenty of natural light. It has a nice activity room with birds and plants and an impressive rehabilitation center. Of course, a visit to a nursing home is always depressing to a certain extent and there was a lady with her head resting on her chin, completely oblivious to the puzzle in front of her in the activity room. There was such hope on some of the rehab patients’ faces. I hope they are able to become independent again, to walk again, to return home, whatever their goals may be.
I liked how the facility allows residents to eat whatever they want for meals, so if they want a grilled cheese for breakfast they can have it. With adequate nutrition being such a struggle for nursing home residents, this is a positive approach to take. Also, I was greeted by a visiting therapy dog as I entered the facility. Dolly the greyhound was so sweet and gentle, I’m sure she brightened the residents’ day. The area around the facility is mainly suburban and residential, so it seemed very quiet and peaceful, with a beautiful view of the mountains in the background. Butterflies and birds greeted me on my way out. Not such a bad place to die, I suppose.
Perhaps the most telling sign that my trip to Albuquerque was meant to be was my hotel room. It overlooked the Crossroads Motel sign. For fans of the television show, “Breaking Bad” this will be familiar. But for me it has a deeper meaning. I was greeted by that sign each day as I looked out my dad’s hospital window back in November 2011 while he was in CCU. I remember noting how appropriate the sign was, since Dad was himself at the crossroads between life and death. And now I feel like I’m at a crossroads as well. Future career, processing grief, developing a caregiving plan for my mom, there are so many things to consider. But for now, things are looking brighter. Maybe not as bright as that Albuquerque sky, but at least Mom’s oncologist just gave her great results and she continues to improve and remain independent.
It was a good trip. I feel like now I can appreciate Albuquerque for being more than where my father died.