It was good to see her again.I've been visiting her weekly (or around there) since mid-October.
They kept saying she only had six months or less to live.
She originally wanted someone to come and do laundry. And climb her '17 steps' on her backporch or the '13 steps' leading up to her front door.
I learned to love to do laundry for the first patient of mine who also became a friend. She happened to be a former nun and from her, I learned the beautiful gift of being allowed to do someone's towels, pillowcases, socks, and other things.
With this new patient, I did her thick towels, bathmats, and purple sheets. I was surprised when she wanted to climb the '17 steps' with me. But she did. All three times. In between, we chatted on the porch, enjoying the nice sun, (and me secretly enjoying the nice fresh air). As she told someone today, she got cancer from smoking.
I learned that she grew up on vegetables her mother and father used to grow 'back in the ga(h)den'. That she came from a larger family and moved to San Francisco soon after her mother died because there was simply nothing left for her.
The next time I showed up, she wanted to test out her new walker. If she was to 'get better', she claimed, 'she must start getting out again'.
So we did. Subsequent visits were about walking and her walker. Laundry seemed to always be done. The walks were about listening and gazing up at houses. They returned the gaze, standing tall and towering over us. They seemed to enjoy us noticing them and pointing at their unique windows or moldings. I wonder if they wanted to offer us shade from the sun catching our eyes.
One time, she wanted to go on a longer walk. So, we took a bus to the neighboring neighborhood (up the hill about eight blocks). Once on, she shared how this is what she used to do: take the bus up the hill, all the way to Divisadero and then walk back. We did something similar that day, got off a stop before, and then walked back, making sure to window-shop. 'Boooooyyyy. Do I luvvvv window-shopping!' she boisterously exclaimed.
And she did. And so did I. I remembered I did rather. I also remembered my grandmother did too. That my sisters and I loved to as well before adding things to our carts with a mouse.
Today's visit marked the first time in about four weeks since the last time we saw each other. And what joy and delight were had. She wanted to head to her 'hairdressa(h)s' place on Mission, so we did and came across this bakery.
On our way back, she stopped in. Her claim was that she hadn't been here in 'soooo' long. I think she just wanted to take a deeper look at what was in the windows. She somehow gave me her cane--she had since graduated to that!--and instinctually grabbed the tongs, a large silvery-gold plate, and started going to town. I wasn't quite sure what her plan was or for that matter, what she was doing.
But here she was, thoroughly enjoying herself and revealing she was quite the local, taking anything off the trays that she desired. We decided to stay at their tables they generously offered to patrons. With our treats and coffee from the warmer, I took stock and couldn't quite tell if I was becoming friends with someone living or dying-- and how isn't that the case in real life?
While sitting down and learning to appreciate the burnt coffee, I gently reminded her that I would be happy to do her laundry if she still needed me to. To which she paused, made an expression that made her otherwise unnoticeable cheekbones stick out, looked up at me through her glasses, and said, 'No. I don't want to spend our time that way. I get to choose, and I like to walk together and go places.' Perhaps being the youngest, she hadn't received a lot of attention over the years, and having been on the west coast now for decades alone. So I said, 'That's right--you do.'
I was touched by her comment though, picking up that she likes to walk, talk, shoot the breeze, and have companionship. On our way out, I snapped a photo of the racks and trays of sweetness.