Earlier this month, I appeared on a community cable program. The host, known as Dr. Don, interviews local people whom he imagines others will think interesting. He’s in his 90’s and has been doing the series for 15 years. An hour of talk about myself is a challenge, even for me, so when he asked how I imagined my best friend would describe me, I was nonplussed. Frankly, I’ve lost so many best friends in my 82 years, no one alive came to mind, initially.
I decided to dodge the question. Whoever my best friend was, I replied, I hoped he or she would say I had a sense of humor. Life requires humor. Getting old requires even more. Consider this scene at the retirement center:
Yesterday, I came upon a wonderful poet seated alone at dinner. As I delight in her company, I decided to join her for a moment. In no time, our conversation about books flowed amiably. She had just finished The Overstory by Richard Powers. I had nearly completed A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Deep in our confidences, my companion paused, taking note of a distinguished looking woman as she ambled by on her walker. “Did you get my phone message?” she called out by way of greeting. “I got yours but forgot to reply. When’s the meeting, again?
The woman with the walker, whom I know to be highly respected in our community, paused to consult her recollection. “No, I didn’t get your message. At least, I don’t think I did. If you’re talking about the meeting with Alice* and the others, you missed it. That was yesterday.”
The woman at the table bit her lower lip. Her disappointment was a real. “When’s the next meeting? I want to be there.”
Again, the woman hovered above her walker. This time, her eyes tilted toward the ceiling, as if the answer were written there. Seconds ticked by before she let out a sigh. “I don’t remember. Let me check at my calendar and get back to you.”
Satisfied she’d done her best, the woman pushed forward, her body seeming reluctant to follow. Another minute passed before she was out of ear shot and I ventured to satisfy my curiosity. “Meeting? Are you teaching another poetry class?”
As if it were a fly, my companion waved my question away. “No, not poetry. Alzheimer’s. We want the Director to do something about it.”