Thursday, September 30, 2010

Of Oatmeal and Mass

She sits in her house all day, the heavy curtains closed against the New Mexican sun. Pictures of saints and the Pope adorn the walls, and other evidence of her religious belief fills the house. Her life revolves around watching Catholic Mass on television three times per day, and everything else seems to take a back seat to her faith. She rarely parts the curtains and even more rarely ventures outside.

"How are you?" I ask as I sit down on the seat opposite the couch where she spends her days and nights.

"Fine," she says, looking at the floor. She fidgets with the hem of her dress.

"How are things going with the home health aides? Is there anything new you need them to do for you?"

"No. It's fine." She fidgets some more.

"How are you sleeping these days? Do you get enough sleep?"

"I don't sleep too well. But I'm fine," she replies. Her lack of eye contact is unnerving and I fumble for ways to make a deeper connection, but this is only our third meeting and I know she needs time to build trust, so I'm patient.

"Is there anything I can do for you? Is there anything you need?"

"No, I'm fine." She looks over at the TV. "Mass starts soon and I still have to make my oatmeal."

The clock on the wall ticks and tocks in the silence between us.

"Your house looks lovely. You take such nice care of it. Have you lived here a long time?"

"My husband built it forty years ago. Every board and nail. He even did the adobe. We raised our children in it, and he died nine years ago." Her affect brightens as we look around the house.

"The woodwork is beautiful, and I love the counters in the kitchen. He did a brilliant job," I add.

"Thanks," she smiles.

"I really have to make my oatmeal now. I don't want to miss Mass."

"OK," I say. "I'll come by and see you at the end of October, and I hope you have a good month til then." We shake hands.

I open the front door and light comes streaming in. She squints, shades her eyes, and says goodbye as she closes the door. Mass and oatmeal await.
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