There’s a woman who reads at the library who’s eighty-five if she’s day. You’re always alerted to her arrival because the reading room doors suddenly swing open like she’s entering a saloon.
Despite a walker, she is admirably ambulatory and indignantly independent. When she first started to come, she annoyed me to no end being a first-class pill. There’s a certain etiquette in the reading room she tends to ignore like, if I’m reading the newspaper it means she can’t have it. She’ll come over smiling sweetly asking, “Are you done with that?”
But after excavating twenty layers of Catholic guilt, I realized, she’s just old and deserves tolerance, and perhaps even a New York Times.
Unfortunately, many of my peers aren’t as patient showing animated disdain toward her ongoing antics playing the old card to the hilt. Since you’re not supposed to talk, one tends to mime their annoyance. Imagine Marcel Marceau in a snit over the sports page (turns out she’s a Yankee fan).
I saw her last Monday on Park Avenue so naturally I said hello. You can see she’s grateful to be acknowledged…makes me very wistful to be quite honest. We too often treat the elderly as discards. The fact that at her age, she can still get around so well, is more of a grace than one realizes.
“Are you going to the library?” I asked, once again forgetting to ask her name.
“No, my dentist…to see about my teeth.” It was the first time I saw what bright blue eyes she has.
What I haven’t mentioned, about a month or so ago, she came in toothless. I remember thinking, oh my God, did she forget them at home…are they bobbing in a glass on her nightstand? I hope she didn’t leave them somewhere like a lunch counter or Bloomingdales. My Al-Anonic tendencies went into immediate overdrive.
Come to find out they were recently extracted, and she was simply waiting for them to come from the shop, as she put it.
Fast forward to Saturday. I’m in my favorite easy chair with Cary Grant, a little memoir by an ex girlfriend of his, that’s so badly written I can’t put down. Feeling a presence, I look up and who’s perched on the edge of the coffee table across from me, but this woman.
I gather myself, since she scared me, and say,”Do you need something?”
She smiles back and it hits me, she got her teeth that she’s proudly showing me.
“I gave her a big grin and whispered, “Congratulations, they’re beautiful.”
She was positively elated over her new smile. When she started to say something, we heard a collective, Shh, so she returned to her seat.
I have to say, her dentist is quite the aesthete since they are blindingly white and so even, she could easily do a Pepsodent ad. Think Farrah Fawcett if she had lived to be eighty.
The crazy part of me that needs to be medicated thought, hmm, maybe I should introduce her to my agent, but rationale, thank God, took over and said, Susannah dear….
Photos courtesy Google Images