She was wearing pink. A pink cap, sweater and pink corduroy pants. Ms. Flamingo’s feathers were ruffled on her arrival. She was mean-eyed and all of 99 pounds. Angry and suspicious she scowled, squinted as she clutched her only possession in her fist. It was a brass lock and key. She handed it to me and refused to answer any questions.
Fiona was steady on her feet for an octogenarian. Her breathing was good. Her wrinkled face hinted of years of smoking. Fiona was wary of the new surroundings. She refused food, medication or to change clothes. For days she refused to bathe. She was sad looking lying on top of the bed, fully dressed, wearing socks and sandals for a quick get- a- away. In our setting we can afford to be patient. There is no revolving door of fast admits and discharges.
As she began to nest Fiona’s feathers smoothed and she revealed her Achilles heel- black coffee, and diet coke. Diet because Fiona at 80 didn’t want to be fat. She held a great distain for too fluffy or fat. Fat can’t fly. Early conversations with Fiona concerned TV and electricity- both dangerous. These fears made her use of the patients’ lounge unappealing. Delusions about religion, the bible belt variety, electromagnetics and government were themes she discussed.
Fiona Flamingo found her areas of comfort. She began to thrive with aviary routines, her preferred staff, a few safe feathered friends, regular meals and her ability to score soda and coffee while penniless. Of course, the long acting psychotropics helped with a brief restraint when Fiona fiercely resisted.
Over time Fiona became more social and cooperative. She spent a lot of time near the nurses’ station rising,the earliest bird, before dawn. Perched on one-leg, the other cocked back against the wall she waited for day staff to arrive with the promise of small caffeine rewards. Fiona began to sing. She’d sing hymns in her room, sing to staff. She loved to sing and preen and occasionally, Fiona would dance. She would light up. We could see the young Fiona emerge.
She began to do nice things for others. She enjoyed the younger male patients in a momma bird concerned way. She was creative.
Fiona called Mrs. Nottingham. I could hear her ask, “Is Nottingham here?” She stalked her favorite staff member and tried her darnedest to convince her to take Fiona and “the boys” home with her. Luckily that did not happen. The staff member needed cover and distraction to make safe get-a-way at the end of shifts. It was not all sweetness and flight. Fiona would phone her also-old sister then squawk, rant making mean accusations and then hang up on her.
This Flamingo got well enough to fly the coop. She left the Aviary, without the boys. She had a few sets of clothes and toiletries to take with her and I returned her Brass lock and key. There were hugs and even a few tears as Fiona took flight.