She’s ninety five, and because of a stroke, her limbs are of no more use than branches on a backwards tree. So every day someone dresses her, as if she were still going to her old job at the courthouse—soft knit dress, slip, hose worn like knee socks, and brown penny-loafers— then lifts her out of bed to the recliner, where she sits patiently, watching television in the dusky living room. The house is old around her, filled with the furniture of her grandparents and carrying the smells of two bygone centuries. This is her entire world, well almost. Every evening, her son pulls out the wheelchair and the two of them go down to Benny Jack’s to eat catfish and hushpuppies. It’s like an expedition to the carnival: lots of noise; loud, lively music; real people crowded into booths and tables so close the waitresses must take turns passing by. The gossip is delightful to her old ears—who’s getting married, whose son became a fighter pilot, and who’s having trouble with that bunch of amateurs up at the courthouse.
“Are you a nurse,” she asked suspiciously. (Much can be forgiven nurses.)
“No. Just a friend of your friend here”
“I’m not going to let you do it.”
“This is one of those emergencies,” interjected the sitter, “You don’t really have a choice, because I can’t do this by myself.”
“What’s your name?”
“Mine’s Mim. You don’t hear a name like that much anymore.”
“It’s a pretty name, and it happens to be the name of my little grand-daughter.”
“Well imagine that! Her parents named her Mim, huh?”
“Well, if we’re going to do this, we’d better get started.”
So we did. It’s an odd way to meet someone, but it certainly does away with all the social airs and graces and lets one get on with just being friends.
That wasn't the last time I ever saw her, for life has a way of letting people meet again.
Three weeks ago, when I told her goodbye, she was sitting stiffly in the recliner, funny little hose still rolled at the knee, smiling in spite of her strait-cast life, ordering the sitter to sit over by the window and quit being so nervous and fluttery.
My old friend Mim.