I didn't want to interrupt her reveries. She looked intent upon something. But her name was on my list of ladies to visit with this morning, and she looked the very epitome of alone, sitting there in the near dark.
I knocked and she didn't appear to hear it. So I knocked again, loudly this time. The noise felt jarring, more especially so because of the dark room cloaking her. She started and looked at me. I could see a jolt of something that looked like fear in her eyes. Do I know you? she asked. Where am I supposed to be right now? I assured her that she didn't need to be anywhere in particular just now and that I was someone new. She relaxed visibly. I could see that she was relieved to know that I wasn't someone she'd already met and then forgotten. The forgetting plagues her days, my notes tell me. My notes also remind me to never ask her or her contemporaries if they remembered me. This question grates against an all-too-painful reality for many of them. They don't remember anymore and they feel the gap the remembering leaves. The indignity of it.
I asked her about her children and their children and the change of subject is welcome to her. I tell her I'm so happy the rain has finally stopped. She's eager to verify what I say with a look for herself and timidly hints that I might open the curtains for her. I'm happy to do it and the ambiance of the small room instantly changes. Yellow overtakes gray. She has beautiful stained glass ornaments hanging from transparent thread gracing her now opened window. There are dangling, intricate snowflakes she's crocheted herself years ago. We talk about her penchant for craft and then just as quickly, her face changes and she tells me that she has no hobbies because she always worked so much in her life that she never had time for anything like that. I gloss over the discrepancy and ask her about the Christmas cards tacked on her bulletin board. She tells me that she has lots of friends and though I don't believe it, I'm happy that for this one moment, she thinks she does.
Her pale blue eyes seem a water color replica of her real eyes. They're pink-rimmed, as though she's been crying. I want to weep, but I don't, because I have no right to. I swallow back that tightening in the back of my throat because it has no place here today. I see that life has forgotten her and that the young and the vibrant are preeminent. I think when we value the energy of youth so highly, we forget the beauty in her aged cheeks. These cheeks look so soft, I wish I could touch them. The multi-colored afghan laying across her lap captures an important beauty of days gone by. She tells me she's from Oklahoma and we talk about the circuitous journey that's led her from there to here. Her story is full and beautiful and nuanced and full of days of bleak gray and jubilant yellow and I look forward to hearing more about it next week.