I am changing her name here.
The whole way along, Jo hasn’t been entirely sure about this whole aging thing. Californians are supposed to stay young forever.
Picture a woman with white bouffant hair, holding tight to the high style of her youth, and a well-preserved old Mustang muscle car that she’d babied for decades as well as any hobbyist. She used to laugh at young men who would roar up alongside her at red lights and start to offer to drag race when the light turned, till they got a good look at the person in the driver’s seat. A woman! An OLD woman! As the first female to get an MBA from her university in the 40’s, she enjoyed lobbing other peoples’ expectations back at them like that. I think she was into her 80’s before the hair deflated, after she’d had a stroke, and her beloved car was totalled by her ex-husband, whom she had stayed friends with and who had borrowed it.
She goes to my church. Her stroke turned her into an instant little old lady, and she was not happy about that. There was a Sunday morning when I asked her how she was doing, and she, from her wheelchair, declared, “Heavenly Father forgot about me!” She didn’t care much for this dependency thing, not one bit!
From there she seemed less and less often lucid; sometimes she didn’t recognize me anymore, despite our having moved here in ’87. But she still had good days, just, none recently, when I made my decision.
I didn’t know how she would respond to my knitting for her, but I decided to do it anyway. I took some baby alpaca in white, white being about as generic a color as you could ask for, one that wouldn’t freak out the caretaker if her patient played dress-up with too-wild and crazy abandon; I knitted Jo up a bit of a scarf. Not too long, since she’s seated these days, you don’t want it catching in the wheels, and besides, she might not notice if it did. But oh so very soft.
I took it to church. I put that scarf around her neck and kind of patted it in place on her shoulders, telling her I’d made it for her and what the yarn was made out of. (Ever the fiber artist here.)
She’d been feeling down for some weeks, and that day, she was just plain out of it. She reached one hand absent-mindedly upwards towards mine, but she didn’t seem to have a clue what was going on. Some of her elderly friends swarmed her as I stepped out of their way, exclaiming over her, exclaiming over her new bit of adornment, telling her what it was and how wonderful it was. Jo’s face went from blank to mildly bewildered.
The next Sunday, there was Jo. She was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. She was with it. She greeted me cheerfully. She totally knew who she was and where she was, she was her old self again, and she was ready to challenge anybody to a drag race in her wheelchair, scarf flying.
It was startling to me how changed she was and how much of a difference a simple gesture had made in reminding her that she really was thought about, honest!
I thought of all that today, about a year later, as she sat parked in her chair waiting for her ride home to pull up near the door. She waved hi and laughed. I didn’t put her on the spot by asking her my name or hers; she recognized my face and was glad, and that was reward enough.
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