I said hello with a smile as I strode up the steps of the church, but she, going in the opposite direction, clutched my arm gently, her eyes bright with news to share.
Soft perfume wafted around her, and I noticed her elegance and femininity. She wore a stylish, long coat and a silk scarf. Made up perfectly, her eyes were set off by soft, light brown eyeliner; tastefully applied with a light hand and her hair; soft, light brown waves; framed her face. She must have been very beautiful in her time, I thought.
She leaned in towards me, conspiratorially, pulling me closer with the hand on my arm.
"Did my daughter tell you what they've done for me?" she said, smiling.
"No," I said.
"They've said I can live with them," she said, "James--St. James I call him, is so good to me."
Her daughter and son-in-law (James): in their 50's: had walked on ahead of her as she confided her happy secret to me. I knew that she had been living at a nursing home with her husband who had just recently died of Alzheimer's disease.
Her words were poignant, and reminded me of Blanche Dubois in the movie, A Streetcar Named Desire: "Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."
There was something about someone so glad to have been "taken out" and "taken in," that made me feel sad. This woman had once held a position of prominence in society. Is this what happens to us all, I thought, this utter vulnerability and gratitude? And why did it affect me so? Surely it was wonderful that she no longer had to live at the nursing home?
Gratitude is a good thing, but I think I wished that she felt that she was the gift that others appreciated and that she would feel precious and vied for more than grateful.
I feel, deep down as though family doesn't "take in," they love one another and do that together as long as they can.
But perhaps it is me who is wrong. Her family have made room in their lives; adjusted their home to include an extra person and that is kind and generous and not to be taken for granted.
What do you think?