There were three deaths in the dementia ward this winter. I don't know the names of the people who died but I know their sounds: one belongs to The Moaner, who emitted a sonorous wail with every exhale, even in sleep. Her bed was along the hall at the nurse's station, parallel-parked in a row of other 'mostly dead' inmates. There is someone else parked there now, half dead, mouth agape.
The man who wore the helmet is gone, along with his incessant and relentless knocking. He never spoke. Instead he rapped his knuckles on any surface within reach: on the table that trapped him against the wall (for his own safety, or so they said), on the window or wall behind him, on the wheelchair parked next to him. He even knocked on his own helmut.
The woman who masqueraded as a staff-member is among the dead and the ward is strangely muted without her vile language and passionate accusations. She used to push other residents around in wheelchairs, bashing into tables and walls, shouting obscenities and threats to anyone or any thing in her way. In truth, I was a little afraid of her. But now that she's gone I will miss the boisterousness of her voice.
Oh, I just realized that The Folder is missing! She needed to fold. My mother surmised that this woman had once been in the linens business - she was never without a pile of towels that she'd fold and unfold and fold again, saying with each completion: "there you have it." I can guess where she is now. No one leaves the dementia ward for a better life. It's a one way place.
There are several new faces, new noises. I'm only getting to know them now: the man who pulls his shirt up to hide his face inside the collar; the woman who puts her hand in my pocket as soon as I come into the ward.
My father is still there. Still walking, still eating, still talking in his peculiar gibberish.