We’ve been here before to pick the woman up. 99 years old, lives in a second floor apartment, uses a walker to get around. Once she hits the deck, she lacks the strength to get up. Tiny little white lady with severe kifosis ( a hunched back).
The last time we were here the fire department had to climb in through the balcony as the neighbor who sometimes looks after her was at the hospital with her own husband who is dying of cancer.
Today as we stand by the locked door to the 2nd floor and are about to radio our dispatch for assistance, the woman who sometimes looks in on her, a large black woman in her early fifties, comes in the lobby carrying groceries.
She asks if we are there for her neighbour again, and we nod. She just shakes her head as she heads up the stairs, and then, after handing us her bags, gets her key out and unlocks the landing door. We all walk together down the hall to the old woman’s apartment, where we find the door is surprisingly unlocked. The woman as always is on the ground in front of the TV and her big electric chair. She is not hurt and we help her up.
She is upset that she has been falling so much and says she is afraid. Her neighbour says she will check on her at nine to give her her nine o’clock pill and then come back at ten to give her her ten o’clock pill, but right now the older woman needs to sit down in front of the TV and take it easy so the other woman can go down the hall and take care of the baby as well as her husband. The baby we learn is just a year old. It is her granddaughter and she is raising her. We don’t ask beyond that.
The old woman doesn’t want to be left alone. I’m sacred she says. What if I fall again.
Sit in your chair, watch TV, and I’ll come back at nine, the woman says.
How about I go to your house and sit with you? the old woman says. At least that way I’ll have someone to talk to.
The woman with the sick husband and the baby looks at her and lets her breath out a little, but then says, “Sure, why not? I’m making soup tonight.”
And so all leave the apartment, my partner and I to the right back toward the stairs and the outside and our ambulance, and the two woman, one large and tired, and one old and frail using her walker, head to the left to the one woman’s apartment where it will be warm inside, and where there will be the company of others.