Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Two or three weeks ago, there was a big commotion in our hallway one morning. Shouting, pounding, lots of concerned-sounding voices murmuring. When C was leaving for work, we both stood at our door for a minute or two and watched 2 or 3 firemen using some kind of heavy instrument to beat down the door of our neighbor, Kitty, a very old woman, the first of our neighbors to introduce herself to us and welcome us to the building. Along with the firemen, in the hallway were a couple of other people, and a gurney. I recognized the others as, I assume, Kitty's caregivers, maybe family, more likely home health workers. Since moving in, I'd only seen Kitty one other time, but I saw these people going in and out of the apartment nearly every day.

C had to leave, but the banging went on and on. When it stopped, I wanted to open the door again but stopped myself because the moment felt private, or at least felt like it deserved privacy. The gurney was just like those I woke up to the sight of twice at my mom and dad's house in the middle of the night, when I heard a lot of noise and opened my bedroom door to see EMS workers maneuvering that huge contraption down the hallway with Mom on it, rushing her to the hospital.

So, I didn't find out what happened to Kitty. I didn't see anyone go in or out. Just that beat to shit door with newspapers piling up on the floor in front of it. I feared she had died, but thought maybe she'd moved to a nursing home.

Yesterday, stepping off the elevator, I saw one of the women I recognized leaving Kitty's apartment. I said hello and kept walking but then turned and asked her, "Has Kitty moved out?" She looked surprised and said, "No." I said, "Did she ... pass away?" (I hate that expression, it always sounds more like something a train would do, not a person, but I know people sometimes find the words "die," "death," "dead" to be rude.) The woman smiled and said, "No! She's in there."

I said that I was sorry for being nosy but that after all the commotion a few weeks ago I was worried about her. She told me Kitty had fallen, but was doing much better, and she was Kitty's "aide."

When I got into my apartment, tears came out of my eyes with no warning. I knew that I'd been concerned about Kitty, but I had no idea how heavily it had been weighing on me. The aide told me that Kitty is a very strong woman and that she's 92. All the old women in our coop make me think of Mom. And there are a lot of old women here.

I've settled into an email correspondence with my dad now. Our emails are not long, but they're more chatty and informative than nearly any conversation we ever had one-on-one before Mom died. It's very nice, feels less fraught and awkward than talking on the phone, and I think lets us be more natural with each other, in the way that email and social media generally allow shy people to communicate more easily. I speak for myself, and wonder if it's the same for him. He's old-fashioned, and I suspect he still likes it when I call him on the phone.

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