Deb Murphy, Charlestown

In the audio clip below, Deb Murphy, a nurse’s aide, talks about one of her favorite residents at the high-end nursing home where she works. During the blizzard this past February, when staff slept over to make sure the residents were okay, he made it out to a local liquor store and bought “the girls” a jug of Vodka and Peppermint Schnaaps for their hot chocolate.

Recently, at the age of 89, he left the nursing home, where he’d been living for the past two years, taking care of his wife, who suffers from advanced dementia. In a conversation with story ambassador Kathy Whitehouse, Deb describes his decision to go.

“His wife’s dementia has progressed and she’s totally disconnected from him now. So he just figured…he goes, ‘Deb, I can’t just sit here and die.’ He’s totally with it. He drives his car and everything. He’s like, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’ I said, ‘Of course you do.’

It’s like the curtains have completely closed. She’s really gone. So he’s heading down to Maryland to his nephew’s place. I go, ‘Oh, I thought you were going to Florida.’ He’s like, ‘Well, Florida’s my fall back plan, in case we don’t get along in Maryland- I’ve got another relative down there.’

She’s not really going to miss him now. She’s really gone. And he’s alive and living. And he said, ‘I just cannot sit here and wait to die. I just can’t.’

He’s heartbroken. He’s totally torn up inside about it. It’s a strange thing no one expects to really go through, but…he’s gonna give it a whirl. I think he would rather die doing something than to just sit there and die. Even if he has a car accident and doesn’t make it to his destination, he would rather that than just sit there.

It was funny, he said, ‘Deb, the only people I can really talk to are you girls. And you girls can’t talk to me because you’re so busy.’ We’re SO busy. But he said, ‘The residents are gone. They’re not there for me. And my daughter and son in law are here sometimes, but they’re working, and they’re not around. So there’s you girls, and you can’t talk, and I’m going crazy.’ I felt bad.

And he’s got a huge family, so he’s got places to go. I think he did a test run a couple of weeks ago when he went to New Jersey for a wedding. Drove himself down. A family wedding. Drove down, made it back. We were all worried sick about him.

I think that was his test run to be away, see if he could be okay. Then he came back and said, ‘Yup.’

Also, he waited until the day before yesterday to leave because it was their 70th wedding anniversary. He stayed through that, and left the next day. He left Friday morning at 5:30, before I went to work. So I said bye to him Thursday.

But they were married 70 years on Thursday. I had her on my assignment, and I got her all dressed up real pretty. Nice blouse. She let me put lipstick and stuff on. She’s usually like, ‘No, no!’ She let me do it, though, that day. Bittersweet.”

Deb was photographed by Kathy, her childhood friend from Charlestown.