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The old woman tidied up her living room for about the fifth time and adjusted the arrangement of field flowers in the Mason jar while peeking out the window for her company. Not here yet! Where are they?
After pacing the room once again, she sat on the sofa and lovingly looked around the room. She let her eyes rest on the woodwork as she often thought about the love that went into every detail of the house. Her great grandfather built the house. The wood in every door frame, window frame and baseboard was lovingly hand planed by her great grandfather. The wainscoting in the dining room – real 1800’s wainscoting – now covered with many coats of paint. Once again, she thought about stripping the paint off the wainscoting, making a mental note to pick up the materials needed to restore the wood to its original state.
Satisfied that everything was neat and ready for company, she fluffed the sofa pillow one more time before checking on the blackberry cobbler in the old iron stove in the kitchen. The floor boards were uneven and creaked as she walked across the kitchen. She did not notice.
The old woman let her mind drift back into time. This is the house she grew up in. Her Dad had an overstuffed arm chair he favored. It is old and threadbare, but she could not part with the chair…and it sits as it has always sat for the past 60 years in the corner of the parlor. But, she does not notice its sad condition. The parlor is where her grandparents had been laid out in repose before burial – same as their parents and siblings before them. But, today, she would not think of them because she would have company soon.
Remembering, she went to the window to look out once more. No one arrived yet. She hoped the blackberry cobbler would still be good by the time her company arrived. She peeked into the stone cold oven and saw that it was baking nicely.
Wandering back into the dining room, she decided that on wash day, she would wash, starch and iron the lace panels hanging in the windows. She did not notice the dry rot and state of disrepair. No…she did not notice.
Hearing a car, she hurried to the front door, pausing just a moment in front of the mirror in the hallway to give her hair a quick pat. As she opened the door, she saw that the “company” was her own daughter who only stops in to badger her. She set her lips in a firm line and braced herself for what she knew would come.
I walked into the house, allowing my eyes to wander around the room in disbelief once again. Mom was seriously in need of some mental health care. She does not notice that the windows are broken, the roof is caving in and the floors sag. I worry about her because plaster is falling off the walls and ceilings in chunks large enough to injure her. The furniture is ruined from age and debris from a house that is literally rotting away. It is cold, damp and smells of decay and rat droppings. I know she does not notice.
“Mom” I say, gently, “Let’s go for a ride! It’s a lovely day for a drive! We’ll ride along the river and you can tell me about when the horses walked alongside the towpath to tow the barges down river. And, I’d love to hear that story about when the train tracks didn’t meet after tunneling through the mountain and about how the workers had that ax fight up in Tunnel. How did that story go again?”
Mom likes to tell stories. Of course I have heard them all many, many times, but it will take her mind off of the old house and on to other things. If I can distract her long enough to get her to the car, I can engage the child lock and get her back home safely. And after I get her home, I will call that taxi company and tell them that this is their final warning…if any of their drivers EVER take a pick-up call from my Mother again, I will file charges. They, as well as the whole town, know that Mom is in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Though lucid much of the time still, she is beginning to have delusional episodes. During those times, she thinks this old house is the house she grew up in. Mom never lived here and I don’t know why she has attached herself to this house on her bad days.
I sigh and hope this is the last time I have to come to this place to retrieve Mom. As I buckle her seat belt, once again I thank God that she did not fall on the broken steps or get injured by any one of several hazards. And as an afterthought, I ask God to please cause destruction of this house before Mom or some curious children get hurt.
I drive off saying “Please, please, please God?”