As I said in my previous post, one day last week I had two aging moments that made me pause. Read about the first moment here.
After I left the salon, I drove home. I was anxious to get into the comfortable space of my family: Legos, diapers, and our intact memories. As I reached our street, I noticed an older woman standing in front of the house across from ours. In spite of the 80 degree heat, she was wearing what looked to be polyester pants under a brown trench coat. Her arms were full of belongings — a sweater, a blanket, shirts on hangers — and she stood looking at another pile in front of her.
I left my car and crossed the street. As you may recall, the house across from us was converted into a home for elderly people a few years ago. So, I knew that this woman was likely a resident.
“Can I help you?” I asked, crossing the street.
“Yes! Yes! I don’t like it here. Please help me get away,” she said.
Tears were in her eyes. Her breath was uneven. She was clearly rattled.
“It looks like you’ve dropped some things, can I help you pick them up?” I stalled.
She started to stoop down to help me.
“It’s okay, I’ll get these. Are these your photos?”
Gathering the loose photos that had fallen from the album, I tried to angle them back inside the covers of the book while also looking at the memories of the woman standing next to me.
“Can you take me away?”
She glanced back and forth down the street.
One of the aides, a woman in her fifties who didn’t speak much English, came out the front gate. She made circling motions at her temples with both index fingers, a sad game of charades, attempting to indicate to me that the elderly woman was “crazy”.
“Sonya! Sonya! What you doing?” the aide said, now moving her arms towards the house, giving silent directions to me as if she were an air traffic controller, helping a plane to land.
I ignored her.
“Your name is Sonya? I’m Liz,” I said and took the elderly woman’s hand in mine. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Yes, thank you,” Sonya’s breath, still uneven, seemed to relax some as I put my other hand over hers.
“I’m going to get my friend,” the aide called as she went back in the house.
The front door closed behind her and I was once again alone with Sonya. I wondered how this experience would end.
“Please, please help me go there,” Sonya begged.
Another aide, a man, came outside with the first aide. He introduced himself to me immediately, and told me that the home was for elderly adults. (Duh.)
“This is one of our techniques. When they really want to leave, we let them. They realize they have nowhere to go.”
Gulp. This is a technique? And you’re telling me about it like Sonya can’t hear you?
“Sonya, is there someone you can call? Someone who can come get you?” I asked.
“Yes! Your son, Sonya,” the man chimed in. “I called him. He’s calling back in three minutes.”
“He doesn’t have a car. He can’t pick me up,” Sonya replied.
And then Sonya lost her determination. She started to move towards the house.
“Thank you,” the man said to me.
“Sonya, it was nice to meet you,” I looked to her face.
“Yes. Thank you,” she said and looked up briefly to smile at me.
I crossed the street. Sonya and the two aides made their way through the gate. Entering our home, I welcomed the sight of Legos all over the living room floor.
[Note: My husband and I will be confirming this “technique” of letting people leave with a friend who provides nursing and care for elderly people. If it’s not legitimate, we will address it accordingly.]
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng