By Peter Charles Hansen
One day last fall I found myself inside one of the most magnificent vintage farmhouses on Bainbridge Island. The owner runs a sort-of boarding house for the elderly, an alternative to the typical nursing home environment. She is a nurse, but the place is by no means a hospital. It feels like a warm country home.
I was doing some volunteer driving on a Saturday for a senior friend who needed to transport some stuff to her daughter’s house, where she anticipated she’d eventually move. Being a loyal Husky, the football game against USC was on the truck radio as I pulled into the driveway. It was a close game; the Huskies were down by two with a few minutes remaining.
But I had given my word and now, standing outside the truck looking at me like a jilted lover, was my friend. She tapped on the window, so I reluctantly turned off the radio and stepped out.
Kiss Kiss! (she’s a big kisser) and we’re inside the house, and yes I started to admire it, and the smell of something amazing from the kitchen. But, more importantly, wait! Is that the game I hear blaring from a room down the hall?
I shuffled towards the sound as my friend headed off to her room. At the end of the hall the door was propped open and there it was. The most beautiful sight I had ever seen (that day anyway), a 42-inch flat screen covering a wall, with the entire Husky offense appearing nearly life-sized, on a scoring drive that would fill a man’s heart.
On the other side of the room was an elderly gent lying in a four-poster bed, deep in sleep.
“Get up man”! I wanted to yell. “How can you sleep? Can’t you see we’re about to make a field goal and win the game?” But of course I didn’t say this, he looked so calm, and besides, the owner and another housemate stepped in just then to watch the game, so I had company to get excited with.
Sure enough, the Huskies did make that field goal in the final three seconds and we all jumped up and down and high-fived like college kids. Between the tremendous volume on the television, and our antics, I was somewhat surprised to see that the old guy was still asleep. But I’d visited many nursing homes and really, other than these passing thoughts, didn’t think much else of it. Old guys sleep, just like my old dog. I intend to sleep a lot when I am old too.
Meantime my friend had made her way back to find me so we continued on. For about twenty minutes I carried several boxes and pieces of small furniture out to the truck from her beautifully appointed room, which overlooked a pasture filled with flowers and geese. I hoped her new place would be as special, and almost asked her why she didn’t just hang out here until the cows came home. But I wasn’t sure if we were quite at that frank stage in our friendship.
Anyway, just as I was roping the load in, an ambulance pulled into the driveway without a siren or flashing lights, and a couple of white-coated men hopped out and entered the house. Moments later they returned and removed a gurney and went back in.
The next time they came out they were carting my sleeping Husky fan, visible for a few seconds before they slipped the sheet over his face. The men nodded over at us, pushed the gurney in, slammed the door shut, got back in, and drove away.
Just like that.
Then the owner came out to say goodbye. She waved at the guys in the ambulance as they pulled out of sight.
“Poor dear, didn’t get to see the winning drive,” she said to us. “He sure loved his Huskies. Passed away in the third quarter, and I didn’t have the heart to turn the TV off.”