They like Violet at the nursing home. She's good natured, always says "hi," and doesn't complain. She's lived there four years.
Once she presided over her own country farmhouse kitchen table, peopled with family and neighbors. Though they might not get along in all contexts, the table bonded them, cementing various degrees of familiarity, love, and dysfunction. Over the stove hung a plaque that read "Kissin don't last, cookin do"
Uncle Vic thought it a great joke when I "got religion." Over cards, he would challenge "you're prayin against me, aren't you Tommy? I'll bet you're prayin against me." I was only praying he'd take his turn.
Violet lived for years in that farmhouse after Vic died. Then she lived with one daughter, then another. When she got so she needed round the clock care, the daughters didn't know what to do. She fell a few times - no small matter for someone in their 80s. About that time she entered the nursing home. One daughter or the other visits her nearly every day.
Pop comes over from Rochester, 300 miles away, to visit his sister a few times each year. "Charlie, it's so good to see you! And Tommy, what a pleasant surprise!" On a pleasant day, we wheel her out to the front walkway, where she remarks on trees and greenery and family history. "Gram will be so disappointed that she missed you," she laments. "Violet, Gram's been dead for years," someone says. "Oh yeah, that's right," and she resumes contemplation. That's how it goes. She freely mixes several generations, some living, some dead. Sometimes we correct her, and sometimes not.
She used to caution as the afternoon wore on "It's getting late. You'd better be going." Lately she's been including herself. "It's starting to get late. We ought to be going." "Violet, you're staying here. You live here now." "Oh that's right," she says.
"So who's cooking tonight," she observes after a bit. "Do you want me to cook?" Pop again explains that the home will cook, the home in which she lives, but she's not so sure anymore.
"Well, we should be going Vi," he says. "Okay, I'm ready, let's go" "You're staying here, Vi. You live here now." "Not me," she says. "You do," Pop says. "You have a room here, for several years." "I know, but I'm not ready to go just yet."
She gets progressively resistant, then alarmed, then pleading, then angry. "Well, that was a dirty trick!" she charges. "I wouldn't have come with you if I knew you were going to stick me here!" In the end, the staff wheels her back.
That evening, sitting at the cousins' own long kitchen table, a table that Violet rarely sees now, Pop wonders aloud how tomorrow's visit will go. Maybe it will be unpleasant. "No," the cousin says, "she will have forgotten all about it." And it turns out just that way.
Until the end of the visit. After initial maneuvering, Pop and the cousin tell Violet we have to be going. But isn't she going too? "Oh no, you're not sticking me here!" she snaps at us. But the nurse distracts her. "Violet, we're having vanilla cookies with dinner tonight. Would you like to have a couple now?" "No thank you," she says. "I'll just wait till dinner and have mine with everyone else."
They all want to go home. But none of them will.