Sunday, July 3, 2011

"I Have Three Titles"

Every night, same story. A few spoons of pureed substance, a few sips of chocolate Ensure and Mr. Wang is done with dinner . . . "Did I eat enough? I want to go to my room." Efforts to feed him only result in more frustration. Mr. Wang cannot wait to sleep away his sadness. 

Body wasting away, and down to a mere ninety pounds. Mind no longer to be trusted for remembering the simple things. Wife of sixty years at home and also wasting away, although in a different way. Family visiting, some times. The reality is Mr. Wang does not have much to live for, anymore.

Watching all signs of life seemingly withdraw in one such as Mr. Wang, a natural response is to believe what's being presented, and to not engage.

Tonight was different. I asked him what kind of work he used to do, and was surprised to see him smile. "I have three titles, in engineering." It turns out Mr. Wang had a long career as a gifted engineer, after graduating from one of the best universities. He used to build bridges. As he tells his story, I notice Mr. Wang emptying his plate. First goes the mashed up beef, then the zucchini, then the rice. He finishes up the chocolate pudding, and gulps down half of the Ensure. There is no more talk of him going back to his room. When one of the other residents starts entertaining us with a story, Mr. Wang breaks into a  laugh. "She has a sense of humor." We joke about the woman's imperious personality. "She is my professor!"

Taking it up a notch, we ask if he would be willing to advise us on the 'engineering' problems we have in the building. "Sure, I have three titles . . ."

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