The non-visitor: a story about never saying you're sorry.
Walk up to door one. Open and walk through. Door two. Push button. It clicks. Enter. Write name and time on log at front desk. Write name on tag and stick on shirt. Cindy arrives and says hello. Follow her down the linoleum covered hall. Past the man in a wheelchair. An open door reveals a woman in bed watching tv. A hunched over man looks at me from another open door. His leg is bandaged. Walk towards the eating area where several others are congregated. Mostly in wheelchairs. Chatting. Average age probably middle 70s. Or older.
Reach Marissa's room. She is in a wheelchair. A plastic toy drum on her lap. Eyes closed. Sleeping. Next to her is Brianna, her sister. When I first met Marissa she was 20 and Brianna was in the 4th grade. Brianna is going to be a high school junior in the fall. Cindy sits on the bed.
Marissa had just graduated from high school when she was struck head on by a teenager who crossed the center line. Marissa's car was pulverized. And so was she. The other teenager exited her vehicle unscathed. We sued the car manufacturer and the negligent driver. Years ago.
Marissa sleeps. Cindy, Brianna and I talk.
Me: Has the other driver ever visited.
Me: Have her parents.
Me: A phone call.
Me: A card.
Me: It is not for me to forgive. Marissa is not my daughter. And I believe in forgiveness. But I do not understand how you can forgive someone who changed your daughter's life and that of your entire family - who has never even said they are sorry.
Them: We thought that they would. We were waiting for it to happen and wondering if it would make us feel differently. We believed it would. But they never did. And we have given up thinking that they ever will. And we try not to think of it.
Me: I mean, maybe the insurance company or their lawyer told them not to say sorry because that would mean they were at fault. Maybe I could understand that. But this case has been over for how long now.
Them: It happened eight years ago and ended six years ago.
Me: Yeah. No excuse.
Them: Can't believe eight years have gone by.
Me: It's not just that Marissa will have to live in a nursing home for the rest of her life. It affected your entire family. Brianna spent so much of her childhood in this nursing home. You still come here every day. You have spent hours, days, weeks, months, years here. And they have never said they are sorry. It just makes me mad.
Them: We see them sometimes out in the community and they never acknowledge us.
Me: It was not intentional. She was a young, inexperienced and bad driver. That did not make her a bad person. But if my child had wrecked a family, I would feel morally obligated to reach out to them - to let them know that I cared and was so sorry.
Them. Us too.
Me: I mean, send a card. Do something. Do anything. Be a decent human being.
Cindy gently shakes Marissa. She opens her eyes. Gets cleaned up. We caravan down the linoleum halls. Past another locked door with a buzzer. Out to an empty courtyard. In the beautiful spring weather. Under a tree with a red robin's nest. Listening to the chirping. Waving away the occasional bee. As Marissa bangs on her drum.