To the editor:
I am sharing a written assignment I wrote as a freshman student at City College of New York in 1966. I rediscovered it when cleaning our home in Maryland, where I live with my husband and family.
During high school and college, I lived on West 239th Street in Riverdale, where my parents lived until two years ago. For the past two years, my mom has been a resident at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, suffering from dementia.
In recent years, I recognized that the woman that I wrote about probably had dementia. Perhaps her daughter hid her shoes so she wouldn’t wander on her own. I can identify with the feelings and struggles of being a loving caretaker of a parent with dementia.
It is a disease that slowly squeezes the life out of the patient, and sadness surrounds the family due to witnessing the loss of understanding, of life experiences.
There is an aging population in Riverdale, and in this time of COVID-19, there needs to be an extra sense of caring for our senior neighbors, to make each day a little happier, easier and safe.
I am hoping that as my professor from long ago suggested, you can publish my story. My hope is that it will encourage everyone to realize no act of kindness is too small to be appreciated, and to make a difference in someone’s life.
As I was standing in the brisk autumn weather, I noticed an elderly woman walking directly toward me. Although the woman appeared to be in her 60s, she had a very stately air about her.
Her hair was a silver gray, and pulled back tightly at the temples in a perfectly braided bun. Although wrinkled, her complexion looked as if it had been fair and flawless in her youth. Even though her age had brought about a slight sagging of her facial features, you could see that they were classical.
She had a short, straight nose and high cheekbones. She was hefty, but carried herself well. For she walked with a straight back and even steps.
When she was a few feet in front of me, she stopped and pointed down at her feet. Quite startled, I noticed that she wasn’t wearing any shoes. I asked her where her shoes were, and she explained that her daughter threw them away. Her brown eyes became watery, and she clenched her fists as she repeated her explanation.
Suddenly, her stateliness seemed to disappear, and I couldn’t help from feeling sorry for her. The clothes she wore looked old and worn out. Her dress was long and not very stylish. The sweater she was wearing probably was, at one time, a warm gray, but now most of the color was washed out. Her stockings really showed their age, for they were particularly thin at the toes.
When I offered to walk her home, she said she didn’t intend to go home, but was going to meet her brother. I didn’t know whether there was truth behind her story until I saw a young woman coming our way.
She walked quickly and carried a pair of black-lacked shoes in her hand.
She came up to the older woman, gently put her arm around her, and directed her toward a nearby bench, where she helped her with the shoes.
They sat for a while, and then walked on together.