since march 2014, i've been walking to church with a woman named jenny.
she is in her mid-80s.
she has some form of dementia.
she used to work at the LSE.
she uses the word "boat" when she means "car."
there is a ruby ring on her left ring finger which means she was either married or that she is unmarried and has no scruples about wearing a ring on her left ring finger.
sometimes she forgets to put her teeth in.
that is what i know.
when i first see her, she always looks grumpy. when she sees me, her face lights up.
she pats me on the forearm and calls me "dear, dear girl." (in the early days, when we first started doing this, when i was still new-ish to london and wasn't seeing anyone and didn't have any close friends, that weekly touch on the forearm was the primary moment of physical contact in my life.)
and so most sunday mornings i enter a two hour period where reality doesn't really matter, small talk doesn't have to make any sense, and i am very greatly loved by someone who recognizes me without knowing who i really am.
somehow i've not ever written about this before, though it seems ripe for the writing.
the day when she kept pointing to the sky, and people passing us on the street thought some sort of incident was unfolding and kept turning to look up, to see what she saw, when really she was just acknowledging to me that the sky is very blue.
the day she briefly cried in church and told me she just wanted to die. (perhaps i wrote about that? did i write about that?)
the fact that, every time we part, she asks where i've parked my boat, a question that always prompts me to wonder, if i had a boat, how would i get it home from notting hill.
yesterday, she was in fine fettle, as the nursing home around her- undergoing renovations- seemed to be falling apart. slowly, somewhat arduously, through a series of lifts that went up instead of down, buttons that did not properly function, and finally the assistance of a comically large portion of the downstairs construction crew so that we might open the front door, i busted her out of the home into the sunlight.
she blinked, and then asked if my husband was staying with me. and i said, no, no, i don't have a husband, and she looked first shocked then pleased as she said, it's better that way, your boat being so small.
then, looking up at the blue blue sky, she asked, "it is today, isn't it, today?"
and when i said, yes, absolutely, it is, she smiled broadly, and sighed: and it's a beautiful one isn't it, today?