Then I asked, “Why do you like the trees?” speaking loudly to be sure she heard me.

“They make me feel calm and peaceful,” Elizabeth said.

“I like the trees that grow over the walk,” she went on, pointing to the ones that met and formed a canopy ahead over the sidewalk. “I like the birds in them, and I like the clouds that look like angels.”

I looked up as we walk along together, slowly, to accommodate her cane. There were some patchy white cumulus clouds overhead, but I couldn’t see the angels.

“The birds sing in the trees,” she said.

We walked under the leafy canopy, I luxuriated in time with her, ambling along beside her, passing now through this wonder and that, and suddenly the world felt magical to me, seeing it from her angle, through her eyes.

“I have a lot of memories of this community,” she said. “My mom and I pushed a shopping cart up the hill from Target with our Christmas tree in it.”

“How long have you lived here?” I asked.

“I lived here with my mom for twenty-one years,” she said.

When we reached her apartment, I felt like I was entering a sanctuary. Right away, our focus went to the cat, sleeping on a paper bag under the old TV. Cinderella got up, and came over for some love, rubbing against her leg.

“She likes me to pet her,” she said, “and rub her ears. What color do you think she is?” She paused and then answered herself, “She’s white, and black, and gray around her head.” Then she asked uncertainly, “Isn’t she?”

“That’s right,” I said. “Those marks around her eye are gray. She is a sweet kitty. She’s perfect for you.”

“She’s skinnier than when I got her from the animal shelter,” she said,”I think she lost some weight. Probably needs to lose more.”

The cat was overweight. It was also deaf. It had formerly been abandoned, but it now it had bonded with her, in only two weeks.

She looked up at the wall above her, covered with photographs, clippings and paintings.”My mom liked Indians,” she said. She paused, then said, “It’s really hard sometimes, with all her stuff here around me.”

“You’re doing really good,” I said, “With Cinderella and your therapist, your recovery groups and your church family.”

“I guess,” she said. “I’m trying. I’m trying.”

We talked a bit more. I left with a hug. Her hearing aid screeched.

Walking back though the old neighborhood, under the canopy of bird-filled trees, underneath the unseen angels in the clouds, I thought about her life.

Fifty years, side-by-side with her mom, fifty years of being completely taken care of, and then suddenly, boom, her mom is gone, and she is alone, deaf, caned, uncertain, grieving desperately, struggling like all of us, for sanity, and yet ever so bravely, taking the first, small, courageous steps forward into a new world.

I’m so glad I know her.

Elizabeth is taking care of her cat.

Elizabeth is taking care of herself.

She is taking care of me too.

  1. Anonymous says:

    How beautiful. That made me tear up. Appreciating the simple things. Slowing life down long enough to see and hear what’s really important. Thanks, Elizabeth.

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