Last Thursday evening I left work about ten or fifteen minutes later than my usual shiny-shaped hole in the door at 17:01. As I was walking close to home, I saw a little old lady walking towards me.
I have a thing about smiling, nodding or saying hello to older people. They come from a better time when that’s what people did, and I always remember when I was in school hearing a story about a woman who would get the bus every day and sit on a bench in the shopping centre in the hope that someone would talk to her.
So I smiled and she looked up at me, then stopped me to ask directions. We were further along the road than she was looking for, but when I pointed the way nothing registered on her face. I quickly realised. She said she’d been walking for a long time, maybe for four miles, she liked to walk.
I asked if she knew her address, and like it was a test she shot out the right answer. I told her I would look it up, and thanked technology for smart phones. She didn’t bat an eyelid, just thanked me and waited.
I hadn’t heard the name before, but by chance I had met a man earlier that day from an adjoining road to hers and not having heard of it before, I asked him where it was. Behind the supermarket. So that’s how far she’d come.
About 2 kms, 4 miles in old shoes.
I told her I lived around the corner and could drive her home, and she agreed. We got into the car, fastened her seatbelt then mine, and I sent a text to say I’d to run an errand and would be home soon.
As we drove she told me she was originally from Wexford, one of ten, and that her parents were still alive. It seemed unlikely, given she seemed to me older than my Granny (who at almost 87 told me recently that she was starting to get old, but that it was probably about time she did), but it wasn’t for me to decide. She told me she went to visit them every 3 weeks or so, and they came up to her too. That’s lovely.
The kids would be out, on the road, they were always falling. She talked about the weather, saying how nice a day it was, and I somehow knew not to mention the awful rain at the start of the week, and then she said how lucky we’d been with the weather over the last few weeks, thanks be to God.
I asked if there would be someone at home. She hoped so, as she had thrown her keys behind her. I hoped so too, and there was.
The bell didn’t work, but the knock on the window did. ‘I have a delivery for you’, says I. ‘Where did you find her?’ the man in black slacks and matching polo shirt asked. ‘Down by the park’, I replied. He looked confused, ‘are you a nurse?’ and then tried to explain. I told him I understood, but he had to tell me, he had to explain, he had to say the words, ‘she has dementia’. He thanked me and I left.
She looked at me, smiled and nodded, and went inside. I hadn’t even noticed before that she had no coat or bag, but had a good pair of shoes on. She liked to walk.