After work I went to a mall that's four blocks away from Bubbe's home, to run some errands. At 6:57 pm I was at the post office, buying stamps for her, when my cell phone rang. It was Bubbe, all in a panic. "Where are you?" she wanted to know. She was breathless with anxiety. "I'm 15 minutes away from you," I yelled, then mouthed "thank you" to the clerk who was handing me my change. "I said I'd be there after seven, and it's not seven yet."
"But it's dark out! I forgot that it would be so dark at this time of night! How will you get here?"
"I can walk to you in 15 minutes. 20, tops."
But Bubbe was having none of that. She didn't want me setting even one toe outside without a chaperone. "Get in a cab!" she command-pleaded. "Call a cab - it's dark! I'll pay for it!" She wouldn't let me off the phone until I promised.
I'm going to admit to you guys that I broke my promise, because honestly I felt that her fears were unreasonable. I'm not a big fan of cabs. I'll take them when I need to, but I'd always rather walk. It's a hassle to call one and then wait around not knowing when it will show up. Plus, I was at this big mall that I always get lost in, and the cab would probably go to the wrong entrance etc.
Instead, I ran. I was carrying three bags and my down parka; and I was wearing big, heavy snowboots; and I ran through that mall like my tail was on fire. Well, I'm not in such super cardio shape that I could sprint, but it's fair to say that I jogged and/or speed-walked pretty aggressively. I sweated, and cursed my awkward packages and elephantine boots, but I didn't slow down until I was at Bubbe's door. I was in such a hurry that I didn't hear my phone ring as Bubbe tried to call me two more times while I was en route.
When I arrived at Bubbe's apartment, the door was unlocked, so after knocking and announcing myself, I went in. She hadn't heard me, and was standing at her front window, intently watching and waiting for a cab to pull into the parking lot. Good heavens, Bubbe! She had herself so wound up.
To say that she was relieved to see me is the understatement of the year. She has never been the type to get anxious, but now that she is becoming more helpless with each passing day, I can understand why she gets caught up in episodes of dread. She was feeling incapable of protecting me from the existential threats that lurk everywhere in her consciousness. (When she's not facing yet another distressing physical challenge - like the increasing difficulty of tying her own shoelaces* - or discouraging doctor's appointment, she watches too much bad news on TV.)
*(For the record, I did offer to find her Velcro-closure shoes, but she's not interested. If it takes her 20 minutes, she's going to tie her own shoes until it becomes literally impossible.)
I settled her down and made some tea, and soon enough we were eating cookies and catching up on each others' news. But still. Visiting with her both fills and breaks my heart. If only I could make life easier for her. Or maybe what I mean is that I wish I could make death easier for her; she's headed there by agonizingly slow but sure inches. She just wants to get it over with already, and I understand why.
I was buying stamps for her because the last time I visited I thought I was being clever by sneaking away before she remembered to pay for my cab fare. I underestimated how important it is to her to make the gesture. The following week, I got an envelope in the mail with a cheque inside, and this note:
Not only that; she hadn't any stamps at the time, but managed to scrounge one from a SASE sent to her from a fund-raising group. Then she wrote the note, the envelope, and the cheque with her numb, arthritis-hampered hands. That is how determined she was to get that $20 to me. I will never try to sneak out without cab fare again. I will hand her her purse and request it, if need be, to make sure that she doesn't go to all that trouble again.
If there's anything that's not fading as she ages, it's her determination and willfulness. Those traits will die when she does and not a moment sooner. God bless her stubborn heart!