TITLE: Lunch With Anne
By Carol Krejci
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LUNCH WITH ANNE
The dining room was appointed in elegance- a rich mahogany china cabinet, tall, with leaded glass panels for doors, stood against the wall to our right as we entered the room. Through the glass panels, one could see exquisitely enameled porcelain items such as vases and bowels, as well as delicately designed bisque figurines. The long dining table was without a covering, allowing its highly polished wood to gleam and reflect the sunlight which filtered through the tropical plants outside the window at the opposite side of the entrance.
The attendants had set the table for the four of us at the end nearest the doorway. Dick sat upright in his wheelchair. He was clean-shaven, neatly dressed, and his hair had been trimmed to precision. He was a fine looking 92 year-old gentleman, handsome and healthy in appearance.
Anne, his wife of 72 years, was our hostess this day, and Dick was the love of her life. She treated him with utmost care, and though our conversation was lively and interesting, never did she dismiss his needs or her attention to them. Dick’s blue eyes were piercing-and beautiful! Just like the sky was that day…brilliant…and without a cloud. As the three of us talked, Dick seemed to be off and away in a world of his own, and appeared oblivious to our presence. He ate very little, but did react appropriately to Anne’s offer of assistance with his meal, by keeping his fork in his hand and feeding himself, never spilling a drop. Any attempt by my friend Sophie or myself to make conversation with Dick resulted, at the most, in a monosyllable, and it was so very sad.
Anne had written her autobiography just a year prior, and I had spent a few hours the evening before reading a number of chapters from her book, in order to familiarize myself with her. What a wonderful memory she had! I had laughed aloud as I read the recounting of Dick’s and her first camping experience in the desert. I felt as if I knew them both, even before we met that day. Now, at lunch, as we discussed her book, and my own recently published book, I could only marvel at the love and devotion she showered upon her husband. She told us that she spends ten to twelve hours a day at this Alzheimer’s facility where her husband lives. In fact, until only recently, she had lived in this same facility with him. She now has her own apartment nearby.
I look at his eyes again, piercing and sapphire-blue and I wonder, what do they see? Is there a connection between his sight and his thought processes? Does he even notice the lovely flowers and plants outside the dining room window? Is Anne’s face familiar? Is there any recognition when he hears her voice?
A medium sized black lab ambles into the dining room for a short trip around the table. He knows why he is here. He doesn’t stop to be visited or to be petted. He is making his rounds, and soon leaves us, continuing his mission. There is at least one other dog, I had noticed, along with a few docile cats. Their behavior is similar. They “live” here, too, and are as much a part of the facility as are the residents themselves. It is a comforting sight to me.
While we are eating, a tall, slender woman in a light blue, feminine-styled jogging suit glides into the room. The blue outfit compliments her soft, shoulder-length silver hair. She appears to have no purpose as she enters, but then she walks more deliberately around the table, and stops to look at Dick. Is there some recognition? Anne tells us that Mary does this quite often. She looks intently at Dick, as if remembering something. Anne thinks that perhaps Dick reminds Mary of someone from her past. Mary slowly turns away from him, walks to the window, and stops for a few seconds before reversing her steps. When she is near to Dick, she again stops and intently looks at him. Though it is only for a few seconds, it seems much longer to me as I observe this lovely woman’s attempt to reach beyond the void in her memory. My heart aches for this lovely person, lost in the ether space of Alzheimer’s Disease. She gently pats Dick on the shoulder as if to say, “It’s been good to be here with you again”, and then she walks out the door, perhaps leaving that brief moment of connection with her past, behind with us. We three are touched deeply by the emotion of observing, for a few brief moments, a world which we cannot enter. Dick continues to look beyond the blue of his eyes to perhaps that same world…and we are left alone…in ours.
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