Thursday, December 5, 2013

at work

I'm sitting in the Alzheimer's day room, a little space created at the end of a long hallway, far from the scrutiny of the casual visitor, someone who might react stongly to an elderly person animatedly talking to her shoes.  There are no blaring TVs here, no hip hop belching from radios, noise is deadly to the demented. Who needs this senseless cacophony, my favorite new word.

I am talking to Evelyn, a small intense woman obsessed with her body fluids and she tells me her eyes are weeping.  I hand her a napkin and offer a drink of cranberry juice but she says no, I don't want to pee in the bed, well who does.

And then there's Adrienne, a long lean horsey woman and her body never looks comfortable in her too small wheelchair. She lived in a high rise in New York with her impeccably dressed husband. They were missionaries in Japan and occasionally she will lapse into that Asian language but more frequently she stares past me into a corner of the ceiling and shrieks. She shakes all over and her eyes lock on this space and I am reminded of the movie The Grudge. The film depicts an elderly woman who cannot speak and she keeps seeing this ghoul hunched in a ceiling corner and no one else can see it. I look upward with a little shiver and move her and myself to the other side of the room.

Freida comes bustling in, she's the kindest woman I have ever known and she spends all her time in this little room administering to her children, adults who look in the mirror and ask, who is that old woman? Freida is large and sweaty and carries two paper plates and plops one down in front of me. It is a small yellow square with a circle of grease spreading beneath it and for some reason that fascinates me. It has orange and pink specks, the pink I believe is meat. I don't want to eat it but I want to be polite to Freida because I really like her. After I have consumed half Freida says, "Helen brought this last week and I think it's okay to eat."

"I'm feeling seepage from my anus," Evelyn announces and I smile and pat her hand and thank god I don't have to check that one out.


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