Saturday, July 31, 2010

We're All in This Together

She is delightful. Her eyes twinkle when she talks, and her stories---often repeated, I'm told---reveal her cultured European upbringing and her very good memory.

She sits in her chair most of the day, looking forward to happy hour at five. She's lived a good life, and there's nothing that will change her habit of drinking a bourbon and water (or two) at the end of each long afternoon. Nearing 100, she's even taken up smoking a cigarette with her bourbon, and there's nothing that will change that, either.

"I never expected to live this long. Who could have imagined it?" she says with apparent sincerity. And when questioned about the new habit of smoking, she says, "And why not?" with a smile.

"My life has been lovely, my children are wonderful, and I have no complaints other than my loss of mobility. Still, life is good and my days are my own."

I inspect her toenails and decide that a podiatrist should be the one to tackle their impenetrable thickness. Her ankles are without swelling, her abdomen is soft and non-tender, and her cognitive functions are intact. Her vital signs are stable, her pacemaker works like a charm, and her positive attitude certainly makes up for the deficits that have significantly reduced her independence.

"Life has been an adventure, and now I get to sit in this chair, look out at this wondrous view, and have myself a nice stiff drink at the end of the day."

Her daughter winks at me knowingly, and acknowledges in a whisper that there's now more water and less bourbon than ever at happy hour.

"Well," I say, "I wish I could make up excuses to stay here all afternoon and chat, but you're doing so well there's nothing more to say. I'll come back in a few months to see how things are going with the home health aides. Call me if you need anything, OK?"

I shake her hand, but it's apparent that she wants a kiss, so I lean down and peck her on her powdery cheek. She smells like lemons.

"Thank you, dear," she says. "Please come back soon, and don't just wait til they tell you that you have to come back. The door is always open." We smile at one another widely as I exit her immaculate bedroom.

"She's a wonderful woman," I say to her daughter as we walk to the driveway. "She's lucky to have you and your brother."

"Yes, she is wonderful. We love her, and we're just as lucky as she is. We're all in this together." She beams at me as we shake hands, and I walk to my car, sinking into the driver's seat with a satisfied sigh.
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