by Mardith Louisell
Someone was pulling two empty shopping carts into the apartment building lobby. The old woman, who had gone to get her mail, recognized her next door neighbors’ daughter.
“What’s going on?” the old woman asked.
“My father’s been moved to a nursing home and we finally convinced my mother to move to assisted living. We’re clearing out the apartment.”
“Oh, that’s hard,” the woman answered. Both women stopped at the elevator and waited.
Suddenly, the daughter turned and faced the woman.
“You should move right away. You shouldn’t wait. While you can, you should do it.”
The daughter was fuming. Her eyes were fixed on the woman. It was slightly intimidating. She was tall and looked strong. The woman was eighty-seven years old and small. When the elevator arrived, the two entered together.
“You should move over there,” the daughter said, pointing to a compound of three large structures to the east of the apartment building. It was a new independent and assisted living facility that had taken five years of constant noise and disruption to complete.
“I’ll miss seeing your mom and dad,” the old woman said, trying to smooth the awkwardness in the small elevator.
“Do you know it took three doctors,” the daughter was yelling now, “to convince my stubborn mother that she couldn’t take care of dad anymore and that she should move? Three doctors and me!”
“Oh,” the woman said, “your parents had a lovely three bedroom apartment. It would be hard to leave.” The daughter and the woman were going to the same floor. The elevator seemed to ascend slowly.
“I don’t know how your mother did it,” the woman went on. The daughter’s mother needed a walker but still managed to lift her large husband out of the bed to the wheelchair and back each day. “She’s amazing.”
The daughter glared at the woman.
“Why do you want to stay here? Do your kids a big favor and move into assisted living! Why do you want to cook lunch and dinner when you could get it over there?”
“I cook for myself because I can.”
“We’ve been to the dump twice, clearing the furniture, the papers, the lamps, the clothes. Do your kids a big favor and move over there.”
They left the elevator on the fourth floor and the conversation continued as they made the long laborious walk down the hallway toward the two apartments, the neighbor’s daughter banging the two shopping carts against each other, the old woman unsteady on her feet because of age. By the time the old woman took out her key and opened the door, she felt guilty for not moving.
Even though the old woman was tired and weak, she never moved to assisted living. Instead she stayed in her apartment with its view of the lake. She watched the ore boats coming into and going out of the harbor. She made her own food and did her own laundry because she could.
In Memory of Deborah Siskind Louisell, Nov. 21, 2012