tutoring center today. I was doing some administrative stuff and saw her when I came into the reception area to get a student file.
The woman was old, but not desiccated-old. She was tall (well, anyone over five foot one is tall to me, but she was quite tall) and well-dressed in neat cotton slacks and a summery plaid blouse. Another tutor was giving her directions, drawing a map on a yellow sticky pad. As I passed by, I heard snippets of the conversation: walked to the library...can't remember just exactly...son will kill me if he finds out...
Having recently lost my mother-in-law to dementia, my senses are now more finely tuned to signs of a deteriorating mind. I interrupted and asked the woman if she would like a ride. Oh yes, she said, with delight and relief.
As I drove her home, she told me that she lives with her son and his family. Her daughter-in-law doesn't like her to talk to the neighbors, she told me, because she doesn't know them. This is a strange way of living for her, she explained, because up until her memory started to fail, she'd been a registered nurse. She was used to...she couldn't find the words.
Dealing with the public? I offered.
Yes! Exactly! She exclaimed, pleased.
When we got closer to the street marked on the yellow sticky sitting in my lap, she asked me to drop her at the corner. It sounded more like a plea than a demand. I asked her why.
If someone is home and they find out that I've been...lost, they'll be angry, she said. They'll keep me in. I was reluctant to leave her wandering down a street, but she seemed desperate.
Can I watch you go into your house, just to make sure? I asked.
She shook her head. Please, they might see you.
I stopped the car at the corner of her street. She thanked me quickly, pushed a five dollar bill into my lap, and almost leapt out of the car. I tried to give the money back, but that woman was making tracks. I put my car into reverse and inched back behind a bush, and watched her walk purposefully down the road.
I'll just watch, I told myself. Just to be sure. But she turned around and spied me and made an urgent "go away" gesture with her hand. So I made a K-turn and headed back toward town.
If it were in me, I would pray to have her determination should I face such indignity in the future. But as it is, I can only hope.