After a bit, an elderly woman answered, breathless and slightly flustered from hurrying out of the bathroom, and apologizing in her heavy Russian accent, “I didn’t wash my hands, oh dear. You must be Amy, we have heard all about you and are so happy you are here”….and grabbed my hand to take me inside. (Oh well, I thought, so much for the hand-washing!) She is explaining a number of things as we walk into their bedroom and I am trying to follow her rapid discourse. She rouses her spouse from lying on their shared bed. He is as white-haired as she, and as openly innocent and smiling. The room is darkened, and he had only just settled in for an afternoon nap. While apologizing for his flannel pajamas, he insists on coming out to sit with us.
They proceed to tell me some of their story. Harsh it
may be, but in the telling it is often punctuated with statements like, “I was lucky” or “so many had it worse than me”, speaking of the second World War and their years living with privation and fearfulness, and finally arriving in this country, where “everyone is so good to each other”. At some point during our visiting, the doorbell rings, and she slowly toddles to the front of the house. She is gone for a while; almost to the point that I feel I should go see if she is okay.
Then she comes back to join us, and answers her husband’s query with , “Oh, it was just Dave” (explaining to me that he comes by about once a week, needing a little money, she often gives him five dollars and sometimes he will do something for the gift, but she gives it without the expectation that anything comes in return.)
Oh my lord, I think to myself, these people are ripe for a shyster! But then she remarks on the many people that
have helped and supported them through the years, some during desperate times…so many good people… and she is so happy to have an opportunity to give to someone less fortunate.
Jesus, I think. They are like Jesus.
They are celebrating their 68th year together soon, and he says to me “When you are connected like us, you do everything one after the other” and I have a sense he is telling me more than the fact that they finish each other’s sentences.
I’ve received two new recipes and an invite to a picnic before the end of my visit. We drink tea together, and as much as I want to stay and just listen to her sing-song voice and his sweet endearments to her, I realize I still need to see another patient. I get ready to leave. He reaches out and grabs my hand, and I receive a kiss on it. “Is it time for you to go, then? What will you do?” When I tell him I have another person to see, he asks if they will kiss my hand, and I assure him they will not. “Oh, here’s one more then” and I get my second kiss of the day.
I had been warned by my social worker that this couple would “steal my heart”. Too late, I remembered what she had told me
and realized I left a big piece of it in their living room.