This is a story of a woman who has dementia. She is modeled after my own mother. I have named her Elsa as she is now another. One of my greatest fears...perhpas the only real one I have left is to become an Elsa. To no longer own my life and become unedited. This is written in a different format. I have struggled with it. Bringing it to you.( It has 1200 words. It is a sad story with some humorous overtones.)
An elderly woman dressed in dark slacks and a white blouse sits in a chair by the window of her room. Through a cloudy glass pane she stares at the tree line; now the end of her seen world. There is an empty bird feeder dangling from the tip of a pine bow. A poor attempt to ignite the woman’s interest, it is also ignored by the birds.
A Raggedy Ann doll is the woman’s solitary companion. In an earlier time the woman had a name. It was Elsa Barron. When she taught high school, she was referred to as Mrs. Barron. Now she is called: Elsa who has dementia in room 107.
Elsa Dementia has disdain for mirrors. Reflections betray and old photos are not recognized. She does not know the man in a picture on her night table. Agreeably handsome, he is nevertheless a total stranger. It is another man that she remembers.
Elsa’s friend Ann never grew old. Elsa says if she didn’t have to look at herself, there is no reason to believe she is old either. She detests the old woman with wild hair and etched face that shows up in the looking glass. She wishes she would get out and go to another room.
She props Ann up on the windowsill, puts her face close to the worn linen countenance with its triangle eyes and traces the painted mouth with her index finger.
Pay attention. I have to whisper. It was on a day just like this when I saw him there. A feeling inside of me rose from a place that I thought was dead. I have often reflected on that moment and how his touch changed my life. I think about all the other incidents which having arrived as happenstance became permanent. Some were buoyant, others anchors. You know Ann; no one except you knows this.
Elsa stares at the sky without blinking. After retiring, she took up painting and for twenty years she stood in front of easel creating landscapes. Now she holds an imaginary brush painting clouds where they ought to be.
Look over there, Ann. The Maple tree is turning. I need to put some orange on the tips of the leaves. Everything turns. We go one way, perhaps hesitate, feel a calling and then turn in another direction. Is something noticed? Who walks by and who lingers? What or who is looking for you? What or whom do you seek? I had not planned to be there. Why, I have asked myself, did I turn around. It was not the direction of my choosing. I lost my way for a brief moment. I turned.
Elsa grabs Ann and shakes her. She squints her eyes and pokes the doll repeatedly.
Never should have done that. Never, never …never. She shakes Ann and wags a finger at her. Never turn, Ann. Be steadfast, stay the course.
Now she holds her doll tenderly, smoothing Ann’s orange locks as she continues her story.
He was there when I was searching. After that day my life changed forever. I was left with more need. The want turned to anger. Mind you, I never said I was an innocent! I should have been aware of the risk, but the music was already playing and the girl in me wanted to dance again.
Elsa looks at Ann and makes a face. She drops her voice in case anyone in the corridor might be listening.
None of them out there know that I could dance much less have feelings. You felt that way about Andy. I know you did. You have a heart on your chest. He broke it, didn’t he? You don’t have to say. I just know it. Poor thing. Poor, poor jilted Raggedy.
Elsa wraps herself in a woolen shawl. It is beginning to rain.
I am so cold today. Can’t find a spot that is comfortable. Oh, Ann, I wish I still lived in Florida. You would have enjoyed it. I could have pushed you about in a little carriage.
Some of the women there push their stupid dogs. Not me…I have no need of pets. I prefer dolls.
A bell rings in the hallway. An aide knocks on the door. “Mrs. Barron, its supper time. You can bring Ann with you”.
Elsa rises slowly from her armchair and puts Raggedy Ann in the pocket of her walker. They sit at the head of an oblong table that has fresh paper mats on the glass cover, under which is a green tablecloth. When the mats are down, its time to eat. When they come off it is time for crafts.
Elsa doesn’t care very much for the present. She lives in her past life and can retreat there on a turn. She has one daughter and grand children whose names are too silly to remember. She smiles politely when they come to visit, IF they come at all. She tells Ann, she doesn’t care if she ever sees them again.
They talk to me as if I am stupid. I AM NOT STUPID, I just can’t remember. I don’t give a hoot about their world and I don’t care to share my private world with them either.
Elsa hates the food, which has no salt and is ground fine for an easy chew. She moves it around on her plate, bends over and whispers to Ann.
I don’t suppose you’d care to share this slop? Ann grins at her, but does not reply.
They have no idea that I used to dance. None whatsoever. Watch this!
She bangs the spoon on the glass tabletop and widens her eyes as she stares at the woman beside her. BOO, she shouts. And then laughs at her neighbor’s fright.
I used to dance the Fandango and I was a damn good Fandango dancer! I’ll bet you never got off of your fat ass. Dumb old crab.
Elsa sneers at the victim of her vitriol.
Fat as a turnip and has bad breath. Can’t have a decent conversation with a turnip.
“If you don’t behave you’ll have to go back to your room” an aide says as she wipes up the scattered peas from Elsa’s plate.
Elsa’s voice drips with sarcasm. She tilts her head to the side and smiles slyly. The aide is a mouse in her trap.
How very stupid of me. I don’t mind a bit if I do go back to my room now, Prissy.
Ann and I will take our dessert on a tray. We don’t give a damn… do we Ann? .
She giggles and shuffles off leaning on her walker. Elsa is a perfect Scarlet. Head held high, chin up as she sweeps her imaginary taffeta gown down the corridor to her room. Back in her chair, she grabs Ann from the walker pocket and sets her back on the windowsill. She is sleepy. It has been a long day for both of them. Tomorrow is the dreaded shower. They will hide. The sun is going down and she feels the agitation coming.
Now, lets see where did I leave off? I believe we were talking about unfortunate encounters. Did Andy ever kiss you when we were all asleep? I bet you two had fun in the nursery. Did I mention when I first saw him? It was a day like this.
© Anne Armand/2012