Tuesday, 23 January 2018

A Lady of Wales

My beautiful neighbour Lilian (I first knew her when I was 12 years old when we moved to this town) celebrated her 95th Birthday on Sunday, and I went to her care facility to share good wishes along with her family and our other neighbours.

She hasn't been in her home since August, as she'd been suffering from anxiety, loss of balance and forgetfulness. When I finally saw her two days ago, she looked at me with a glimmer of recognition, but I wasn't sure if my face clicked with her. It took a few seconds, but she finally said, "Elaine is staying at the house?" I assured her that her daughter was keeping an eye on the place.

I had been watching over Lilian for several years before that. She was always active, and self-sufficient. She was a champion lawn bowler, and active in the Euchre community. She had called me in tears from Florida twenty years ago when her husband died suddenly in Florida.

But in the last year or so, she'd begun to forget stuff.

I had watched her kitchen window every morning, and if she slid the curtain aside, I knew everything was okay. If I saw her picking up fallen twigs in the yard, I knew she was fine.

In the past year, she often called me to investigate strange noises. I scampered next door to listen. The first time, it was a cricket. The second time, it was feedback from her hearing aid.

We laughed about it, and she told me she was okay and didn't want to leave her home. Her children (at least a decade older than me) had been discussing her situation with her for several months. I sensed she was in denial, as I had to help her a few times over the last couple of years - once when she'd wrenched her back in a fall.

She is now in a local care facility, and it looks pretty fancy to me. Her daughters and son are in the process of cleaning out her home in preparation for selling it. It has to be done.

Her most beloved possessions are with her. She doesn't remember most of the things that had accumulated in the bungalow since the 1960s. The "kids" gave me free rein to choose the things left behind.

It feels weird, claiming items that a person who isn't family had owned for decades. I feel like a museum curator.

I chose a mid-century modern chair that the son had built in high school. I checked with him; he was okay with it. A small hand-painted wooden sailboat. A Coleman cooler from the Sixties. Several dishes and crystal stemware. A vacuum cleaner because  mine is deceased. The "kids" told me I could sell any items I claimed if I wished. They are fully aware that I had watched over their mom when they were too far away to do it themselves. This might be their way of saying thanks.

Back to the party. The party was full of joy. We shared stories, lasagna, and lukewarm tap water (we forgot the sodas). Lilian's son shared a slide show - remember those? - of her birthplace in Wales and the places they had lived in Scotland. His Scots accent crept into the narrative as he talked.

It is love, all around.

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