Friday, October 05, 2012

what's in a name

Hellen has one foot in the homeland. "Two L's." Hellen was a big round beloved woman, a preacher's wife who loved a good deal. Her daughters, each equally well-heeled, came in the evenings, their most recent bargain in hand: a pair of Nine West shoes for three dollars, a silk scarf embellished with roses, just fifty cents at a yard sale. They whirled into their mother's little room waving the treasure and announcing the price. Hellen would smile with crinkled eyes, nodding from the bottomless well of her heart with a sweet, "Hey girlie, where you been?"

Now she's not so round as she once was and her crinkled eyes are closed. There are no sweet words carried to her children on her eternally hopeful breath. She will be gone before daybreak.

There are too many to take her place. A crooked line forms just outside my door, and they bang with gnarled fists to come inside, in full-retreat from the darkness that envelops them and steals their thoughts, pushes them down and breaks their bones.

Recently, though, as Hellen and Edna and Elsie and Myrtle have passed, they are quickly replaced by Janice and Eileen and Barbara and Susan. I greet them with uneasy familiarity, these younger women with names like mine.

I marched in the Alzheimer's walk. The Walk to End Alzheimer's. It won't end, though. You know that, right? But we march and we raise money and we pretend there is hope. But there isn't. Not like that. What hope there is lives in the workers I train, and others like me, who teach the young ones to carry the sick on their backs to the end of their lives.What works is not Aricept or Exelon Patches. It is kindness and understanding, clean hands,strong backs and open hearts.

I raised some money for the Alzheimer's Association and my name was put into a drawing. I won first prize. I won a 50 inch plasma TV. Kurt says we can put it in the neighbor's house across the street and watch it from here. I've never really won anything before. Its too big for me.

Addendum: this morning Harriett is gone. I planted hundreds of spring bulbs today in her honor. 

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