Saturday, July 24, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #376

Nancy White Kelly

She is ninety-years-old. There is not a shared drop of blood between us. As I finish up the dishes, she and Buddy are in deep conversation about everything from the depression era to modern politics.

I met Allie (name changed) about four years ago. I was in the coin shop when a dilapidated van puttered into the drive. An elderly lady slowly got out of the driver side and made her way to the passenger side. I watched, almost in horror, as she assisted a big, tall man get out of the vehicle. He was more than twice her size and probably even older. The blue of his diaper showed above his belt line.
They were there to sell a few tiny gold coins. During the conversation that ensued, I found out that they lived high on a mountain in North Carolina. The couple, married for sixty-two years, were so obviously in love and even more obviously poor.

This unlikely pair were cutting their own wood to stay warm on those cold days and practically living in one room with a small heater. They had no local kin folks. Allie has a niece in Texas, a step-son in Florida and a distant relative up north who is also up in age. I kept their phone number and told them to call if they ever had a need.

Allie did call me a couple times just to talk. She didn’t complain, just commented on the tough reality of the times. A few months later her husband entered a nursing home and she was alone, unable to drive and dependent on neighbors to get groceries or to visit occasionally with her ailing husband.

That was when I started checking on Allie regularly. After a couple of weeks of not answering my calls, I finally tracked her to the same nursing home where her husband had recently died. She had something akin to a stroke and the state had taken total control of her property.

I have since talked to the case worker and think they are doing what is considered best in her interest. Even though Allie’s husband was a retired full colonel, having worked himself up from the ranks, they entered the twilight years with more bills than money.

The first time I visited Allie after her stroke, she vaguely remembered me. Gradually her mind returned to be as sharp as before. Eventually I was able to take Allie, and her squeaky walker, for short trips to eat at a restaurant. She had no money and was embarrassed at her inability to even pay the tip.
My Sunday school class bought her a few clothes and she was thrilled. Every time I visit Allie I take a few dime store goodies and some fruit. You would think it was Christmas.

Today we had Allie for an afternoon of whatevers. Buddy fixed that noisy walker and attached tennis balls to the rear wheels. Smells of spaghetti, her favorite food, filled the house as we chatted, read and laughed.
When we were ready to return Allie to the nursing facility for the night, she wasn’t ready. Being in the real world, in a normal home, was a surreal experience for her. She didn’t want it to end.

Later, when I checked her into the care facility and got her settled in her tight, two-person room, tears ran down her cheek. We hugged. I told her I loved her and her voice trembled in a mumbled reply as we parted. After the grandchildren come next week, I promised I would be back.

There are so many like Allie in this world. While we can’t pay attention to all, most all of us can take interest in at least one.

I am learning that some of the best conversations are with those under six or over eighty.

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