Down the hallway from my dad’s hospital room is the dining room, a multi-purpose space where, in addition to having meals, patients can watch television; sit at one of the tables for a chat; or just be someplace else other than their hospital rooms. One day, after Dad falls asleep, I wander down the hall and into the dining room to stretch my legs.
Mrs. S Appears
After looking out of a window for a while, I discover a jigsaw puzzle someone has started. The picture on the lid is of a dog standing in a large basket, his front paws resting on a watering can. I pull up a chair and am immediately engrossed. I used to do them all the time when I lived at home; I had forgotten how calming it can be. I am putting together some dark green shrubbery pieces when Mrs. S appears.
I recognize her as the woman who turned 94 that day; as I walked down the hall to see my father, a couple of the health professionals wished her “happy birthday.” I move my chair to one side and get up to fetch one for her. Soon we’re both concentrating on different sections of the puzzle and making conversation as we work together side by side.
Conversations with Mrs. S
Regardless of the 40 years that separate us and the fact that we had never met before, there is something about Mrs. S’s manner that is open, welcoming and familiar. We keep it light but it’s not “weather” chitchat either. My encounters with Mrs. S over the next couple of days only go to reinforce my first impressions of this elderly woman – that she is still “with it;” enjoys interacting with people; and makes an effort to look her best and be active.
By the third day of working on the puzzle, Mrs. S and I have graduated to weightier topics, like her having to move from her home once released from hospital; old age and my father. The watering can is finished; the dog emerges but his nose and tail are missing.
Life is Like That
Meeting her gives me some idea of my own future days; I resolve to grow old like Mrs. S; gracefully in such a way that it enhances the lives of those around me – even strangers who are decades younger.