After ringing the doorbell of Apartment #17 in the upscale retirement home, I heard my aunt shuffling to the door, calling out in her squeaky voice, “Coming, coming…don’t go away, I’m coming.” At 98 years old, Aunt Jane’s schedule didn’t fluctuate much so I was pretty certain she would be home.
Besides being hard of hearing, nearly blind and light sensitive, the small apartment was lit like Lazarus’ tomb. As the mousy figure peered around the open door I yelled out, “It’s me, Julie!”
“Julie? Her face beamed. “Oh, c’mon in and have a seat.”
I followed as she shuffled back to her tattered lazy-boy. “Would you like a cookie?”
I knew once I was seated in the blue chair, our conversation would begin to unwind. The discussion was the same every week.
“How’s Ben…and how’s the pup? You have a pup, don’t ya?”
She would reminisce over the three Boston Terriers that she and my deceased uncle John had once owned. The first, a female, had been hit by a car. The second, a male named Buddy, had been poisoned. The third, another male named Buddy, had to be given away when she moved into The Manor.
“Yes, I still have my Boston Terrier.”
“Oh, that’s right. Well, what’s his name then?”
“His name is Buddy – just like yours were named Buddy.”
As though talking to no one she responded, “Oh, yeah, now I remember, yes…Buddy. I really miss my Buddy.”
Sometimes, when it worked out, I would bring Buddy with me. Aunt Jane lit up when my black and white bundle of energy darted into the room bringing joy to her lifeless surroundings.
“How have you been feeling?”
I had to repeat most of my words at least once or twice before my favorite aunt picked up on them. The hearing aids she wore never seemed to be adjusted properly…I worried her neighbors comprehended every sentence clearly the first time.
I shouted, “How have you been feeling?”
“Oh, oh yes, well…you know for 98 years old, I guess I’m doing pretty good. Did you know I just turned 98?”
“Yes, I was at your birthday party – remember? So…you’re doing okay?”
“I was just wondering how you’re doing!”
“Oh, oh yeah. Well, I’m not doing too good. I’ve got to get back to see Dr. Chan for my rhinitis. I can’t breathe…need some different medication. I had surgery on my sinuses back in 1980 but I’m so stuffed up…it’s terrible when you can’t smell.”
Aunt Jane always complained about the inflammation in her sinuses but there seemed to be no cure.
“Do you want me to make an appointment with Dr. Chan?”
“Dr. Chan. Do you want me to call for an appointment?”
She kept her walker close by so I slid onto the seat to get closer to her good ear and raised my voice, “Do you want me to make an appointment with Dr. Chan?”
“Oh…no, not today. I don’t feel good enough to go anywhere. I’ll let you know when I feel better.”
It was always the same. The poor woman needed some doctoring but never felt up to leaving her apartment.
“Do you need anything?”
“Huh?” She stuck her finger in her ear and twisted the dial on her earpiece.
“Do you need anything?” The woman had a reputation for her cookie addiction. “I can make a run to Wal-Mart if you need something.”
“Oh, uh…no I don’t think I need anything. Do I owe you twenty dollars? Seems like I owe you money. Dad always told us kids we need to pay our way and to this day, I don’t owe anybody a thing.”
A while back, I paid for an inexpensive repair to Aunt Jane’s glasses. I tried to look for ways to help her out but she always insisted on paying me back.
“Well, I guess I should be going home now…gotta make dinner for my boys!”
“Oh, well, okay. Thanks for stopping by. Maybe next time you can bring Buddy with you.”
“Sure Aunt Jane, I’ll see what I can do. Take good care of yourself and I’ll see you in a week or so.”
“See you next week!”
“Oh, yeah, see you too. Love you!”
“Love you more!”
“I said, LOCK YOUR DOOR!”
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