I used to work in the Alzheimer’s ward at a local nursing home. There were two wings, separated by gender.
In the women’s section, there was an old German lady who spoke no English. We had German phrases spelled out phonetically for us, simple things like “Do you want to take a bath?” and “It is time for bed,” but she didn’t really respond to them. It might well have been our pronunciation.
Every so often she would get fussy and rambunctious, and when that happened the nurses would call for me. She would take one look at me, break into a huge smile, and run up to give me a hug. She’d chatter excitedly for a few minutes while looking at me adoringly, then take me by the arm promenade me around the perimeter of the ward for half an hour so. Soon she would tire, and I’d put her happily to bed with a kiss-on-the-forehead goodnight.
I don’t have that effect on most women.
I always wondered who she saw when she looked at me: an old boyfriend? A former lover? A younger version of her husband? A movie or pop idol? I’ll never know.
But I do know our little walks together made both of us happy.