Something beautiful happened to me recently.
I was standing in Puckett’s in Leiper’s Fork, waiting to pick up my to-go lunch, when two women came in. I didn’t know who they were, but one of them was very beautiful. She appeared to be in her late seventies, with silver hair, fine features, and clear blue eyes. The other woman, much younger, appeared to be her daughter.
The elderly woman greeted everyone as though she knew them and gave each one a bright smile.
Then she approached me and said, “I don’t know you. But I’d like to!” She tapped the brim of my hat and added, “That’s beautiful! You should wear it all the time.” I didn’t know why she should like my ratty old Tony Joe White hat—or me, for that matter—but I smiled and said, “Thank you. I do.”
“You and I have a lot to talk about,” she continued. “Let’s talk.” And she began telling me fragmented stories of people I had never heard of, places she had lived, her gardens, and her favorite flowers. I could not do anything but nod my head since what she was saying was totally incomprehensible to me. But she spoke with such warmth and conviction that I could not help but listen.
The stories she told made her very happy, and she smiled and gazed into my eyes as she talked. She was positively radiant. As I warmed to her and tried to respond to her stories, her daughter stepped in and whispered, “She has Alzheimer’s. You don’t have to talk to her.”
But I was transfixed by the woman’s stories and could not imagine just walking away. Finally, though, my sack lunch arrived and it was time for me to go. I smiled and gave her a big hug and said, “So good to talk to you.”
She looked into my face and said, “I love you.” And I have not seen her since.
Alzheimer’s is a terrible tragedy, but for those few moments it didn’t seem quite so.
Chapter 16‘s copyeditor, Wayne Christeson, is a Vanderbilt graduate and a retired attorney who lives with his wife, Anne, on a farm in Leiper’s Fork. His work has appeared in Vanderbilt Magazine, Nashville Arts, the Nashville Scene, and the Lost Coast Review, among other publications. He blogs at Letters from Leiper’s Fork.