I’m wheeling Evergreen to the next stop on his daily tour of the grounds. He looks up at me; I smile back. He sighs, and his head drops.
“A parent isn’t supposed to outlive their children.” he says. “It’s unjust and unkind.”
The first time I heard someone say that, it set me back a week. We grow up understanding that an old or sick thing dies and a fresh and new thing is born, and that’s how it works.
A parent burying their child derails us; turns the world on its head. We’re struggling to get ahead of it before we even start thinking about undersized coffins.
The first time it was a shock.
Evergreen says it, word for word, at least three times a week.
Evergreen isn’t his real name. It’s just what we all call him, on account of his longevity. The staff here are the only family he has now. He stopped talking to the other old folks a few years ago. “They keep dying on me.” he said.
Evergreen is my nest egg.
A lot of us do it, and anyone who tells you they never even considered it is lying. The old guy or girl with no-one else to survive them that you put a bit of extra time into. Not enough to be a creep, you know? Just enough that they think about you near the end.
I put the work in. I look after him. I’m not a bad person.
His parents died. His wife died, then his kids. They had had kids of their own, and in a run of bad luck that should be fascinating all of the grandchildren were gone early, too.
I pray to God I die before anyone who cares about me. I’ll probably die before there even is anyone who cares about me.
Evergreen isn’t helping. Nest eggs are supposed to be a couple-year commitment. I started pushing him around ten years ago, and he was old as hell already. Now he’s old as fuck, and I’m still pushing.
I’m sure the other nurses laugh at me. It pricks at me.
I’m going to have to kill him eventually, aren’t I?