Lunching With The Ladies

I played tea party today at the nursing home.

I walked in to the dining room and there sat Cookie at a table with another little old lady who wore a pink housedress with a wide pink, Peter Pan collar. Cookie smiles up at me, looks at her companion, then back at me and says, “There you are! I was wondering where you’d got off to!” She turns to her friend and says, “She’s my friend. I just love her!”

Her friend says, “I just loved the salad you made for lunch, dear.”

I smiled and said, “Why, thank you,” because by now I know better than to try and re-orient people to the misery that is the nursing home.

“I can’t remember names,” Cookie says, “but she,” indicating her new buddy, “helps me to eat more.”

Cookie was wearing her smile like Fourth of July bunting. So different from the last few weeks when Cookie’s cried and clung to my hand as if she were drowning and asked, “If I have no memories, am I still here?”

“I’m Helen Dolores,” the pink lady says. She looks like she wishes I were her friend, too, so of course, I am. “What was your name again?”

“Oh, we can’t remember names at all!” Cookie says. “Why I know her as good as I know my own face but I can’t recall her name to save my soul! She just helps me eat more, you know.”

I smile and say of course I know. I take a seat at the table and stare out the wide plate glass window, across the busy street to the parking lot of a medical building and a fancy restaurant.

“What is that place?” they ask, pointing.

“They x-ray you there,” I say, thinking they mean the medical building.

“Funny,” Cookie muses, “I thought that’s where Mike used to eat…Oh well, maybe it was somewhere else.”

“No, no, Cookie, you’re right,” I say. She remembers! Suddenly, it’s there, maybe just for the moment, or the day, but there they are- her precious memories, the son’s name she can never remember. It is all there.

We chat like we are old friends lady-lunching, until a Fed Ex truck pulls up in front of the building.

“Fexux,” Helen says. “Now what in the world is that?”

I tell them it’s a service that brings packages extra fast, overnight, “If it just absolutely, positively has to be there,” I add.

This puzzles my friends. Why on earth would something absolutely, positively have to be anywhere in such a short amount of time? What could possibly be so important?

We watch the man in brown carry a long, slender brown box into the building.

“Well,” says Cookie, turning away to focus back on me, “There you are! This is my friend,” she says, turning to Helen. “She helps me to eat more, or so they say, maybe.”

Helen smiles expectantly.

I grin, settle my elbows down on the table, lay my hands flat on the blue tablecloth before me and begin all over again.

“Well, hello,” I say. “I’m just terrible with names, you know? But you can call me Nancy.”

Cookie smiles. “I can’t remember a name to save my soul but I know your face as well as I know my own.”

And she does, just as I know hers. It is plastered all across my heart.

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