Time was chaotic this morning. W woke up around 5am eager to start his day. Instead of getting a jump start on things that little blip in routine seemed to slow us down. It took forever to get dressed (there is much refusal to wear sweaters happening right now) and it took forever to consume and tidy up breakfast. I had started to make W’s school lunches the night before and yet this morning I realized I didn’t have a lunch for him.

I won’t even get into the upside down silliness slowdown that erupted when I remembered, just 15 minutes before we were due to walk out the door, that today was “holiday card exchange day” at W’s school and I needed to make sure he had a card for every student in his class.

The rain made a certain someone dawdle to the car and the rain made traffic a beast traveling the 5 miles to W’s school. For some reason a lot of parents were hanging around in the class at drop off so I hung around for a bit and then slid out because I had errands to run before a scheduled work call…and did I mention I was running late?

The pharmacy was packed and the grocery store was a chore. I loaded my bags into the truck of my car and dashed off a text message to my boss that I was, you guessed it, running behind. I zipped the empty grocery buggy back to the cart return and as I beeped open the locks on my car I happened to look up.

There she was. Right in front of me.

I felt her anxiety immediately and my world slowed down to dial into what she was doing. I watched her get into her car, turn it on and run out and look at the front of her car. Then she got back into her car, turned it off, and climbed back out to look at her car again. She did this cycle twice before I called out to her to see if she needed help.

She told me she was so glad I was talking to her as she had seen me many times and had wondered if I would ever talk to her.

I smiled, so familiar with this sort of response. It took a few more minutes before I could get her to articulate that she did not understand why her lights came on when she turned on her car if she didn’t turn on a switch to make them come on. “I just turn on my car and they come on. I don’t understand it. I’m trying to make it make sense.” I explained about day time running lights and asked how long she had had her car. “Oh, this old thing?”

I used to have a car just like the one she was driving and I told her so. I told her that it was a safety feature and everything was ok. I could see her calm down. I could see the panic start to leave her eyes. I knew what this moment was like too.

She thanked me for my time and headed into the grocery store and I headed home. Along my short drive I had all of those nagging feelings that I should have done more but I don’t know what I would have done. I know that my own Grandmother must have had many, many, many of these moments in her life before words like dementia and Alzheimer’s were a part of our day to day life. I imagine that at some point Millie was lost and maybe a woman helped her get back into the right moment.

With Millie gone I feel like I am not speaking a language that I had become fluent in and then a moment like this happens and I realize people are all around me talking and I just haven’t been hearing.


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