UD had finished her Asian salad and was digging in again to Google News when a very old lady maneuvered her walker to the table next to UD‘s. There are lots of assisted living joints around Panera, so the place is full of oldies.

This one was lovely — a full head of white hair, lively brown eyes, clear skin. She had dressed up for lunch in an off-white pantsuity sort of thing. Her attractive look put downscale UD — black shorts she grabbed off a street rack in Key West, a stained black shirt, a green scarf, stupid teeny white socks, scuffed sneakers — to shame. Under her shirt UD wore a bra so old she expected it to explode off of her body at any moment. (This actually did happen once to UD, who has a tendency to hold on to clothes longer than she should. Her bra exploded. She handled it with aplomb.) (Bras explode under a variety of conditions.)

Anyway, UD‘s bra is not the point. The point is that this woman looked good.

UD exchanged a few words with the woman, who worried that her walker might be in UD’s way. Not at all, UD assured her; and, now that she had a really good look at this woman’s eyes, she felt like talking to her at greater length. Especially once she determined that the woman was alone.

“I’m ninety-two years old,” she said in a very strong New York accent. “I lived in Far Rockaway for years. Worked for Social Security. But my son-in-law moved here, so I live in Ring House across the street. They provide breakfast and dinner. I like to go out for lunch.”

“Is there a traffic light at the crossing?”

“Yes. There’s a light. It’s safe. I like to go to the Italian place sometimes. Sometimes this place. But this place can get very crowded, and it’s not easy for me to make my way.”

“Do you miss New York?”

“No. I like it here. And I get away a lot. I’ve been on thirteen cruises. I’m ninety-two. [She repeated herself a lot.] I like the food on the cruises, and the entertainment’s great. I pay for my son-in-law and his family and we all get rooms with balconies.”

“I hope it’s okay if I tell you that you look absolutely wonderful for ninety-two.”

She smiled.  “People tell me that a lot.”

“Do you know how to use a computer?”  UD glanced at her laptop.

“No, no.  I’m too old for that sort of work.”

An anxious young woman with a French accent — UD thought she might be Haitian — suddenly appeared.

“Mommy,” she said, “I’m thinking I’ll walk you back.  I’m thinking I’ll wait for you to finish your lunch.  I’m thinking you shouldn’t walk back by yourself.”

“This is Janine,” the lady told me.  “She takes care of me for a few hours every morning.  But she’s so devoted that she hangs around after that too.  Thank you, Janine.”

“You’ve been looking after Mommy,” Janine said to me.  “Thank you.”

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3 Responses to “Back to Blogging at Panera…”

  1. David Says:

    That’s a nice story. I like old people. My grandmother used to spend a couple days a week hangin out at a senior center. She loved it. They had proms and hat contests (the black ladies always won – they knew hats) and these awesome cookies i used to steal when I dropped by for a visit.

    ….back to work

    cookie thief

  2. Walton Says:

    We had a Janine who took care of my grandmother for years. Though she was technically a hired hand, she also acted as if our grandmother was her own mother. Monica was from Trinidad but other than that this story could easily have been about her.

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    David, Walton: Glad you liked my little tale.

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