Love

It happened like this. In the 1970′s, when dementia was called senility and Alzheimer’s disease was not really in our vocabulary, there was an old hotel that had been converted into housing for senior citizens. The residents were suffering, in varying degrees, from dementia. Miss Potts was already in an advanced stage, but was well enough that, if pointed in the right direction, she was able to find her way to her room.  With the help of an aide who arrived at her door each morning to get her ready for the day, she dressed in a knee length, flowered, shirtwaist dress, and always a string of plastic pearls around her neck.  She was childlike, incoherent, and charming.  During the day, she wandered in the lobby, slept on a chair or sat quietly holding onto a purse and staring blankly as she waited.

Sometime later Miss Lovett, a tall, lanky woman, arrived.  She moved into a studio apartment, near the elevator, three floors above the apartment of Miss Potts.  Miss Lovett also wore flowered shirtwaist dresses and was as confused as Miss Potts. Miss. Lovett’s speech was a salad of disconnected words and rhyming gibberish.  Whenever she spoke her eyes lit up as if she was sharing a delightful story.  Like Miss Potts, she wandered the halls or spent the days in solitude unless guided by the hotel personnel to another location or activity.

The first floor of the hotel was large.  There was a front desk with an old fashioned telephone switchboard, long hallways, multiple sitting rooms and larger ones for group activities. There was a snack bar, that served whiskey and mixed drinks, a dining room with picture windows that looked onto the street, offices for the building managers, and a long hallway that led to the first floor studio apartments.  To get to the dining room from the elevator lobby, the residents had to pass the front desk, and turn down a hallway, equal in length to half a city block and wide enough for a parade of men and women with canes, wheelchairs and walkers to pass in both directions without colliding.

 

One day, when Miss Potts was walking away from the dining room and Miss Lovett was walking towards it they came face to face.  Miss Lovett looked down at Miss Potts and Miss Potts looked up.  Miss Lovett patted Miss Potts gently on the head as if they had been intimate friends for years.  Miss Potts muttered something.  Miss Lovett said, “Mother”.  They began walking in the same direction holding hands and sat on the bench next to the elevator.  That evening the staff could not separate them to take them back to their respective rooms.  Instead, they went together to Miss Lovett’s room where they curled up in the single bed and went to sleep.  The next day and the day after, they did the same.  They stayed together until the end of their lives.

 

I have always felt that in the moment of their meeting there was a recognition of each other that transcended their dementia and carried them forward together.

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Comments

  1. Heather says:

    Such a beautiful story and an amazing photo from Arnie!

  2. Catherine says:

    perhaps someday I will pat your head and we’ll hold hands.