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Monday, July 22, 2013

"She Just Goes As Rita"...

I had five good minutes for her portrait, then she was gone.

She just goes as Rita. And she goes and goes and goes.

It has been about six or seven months since I took my mother's complaints seriously and left one senior center in Abita Springs to join another one in Mandeville, LA. The group there is pretty active, and they all look after and care for each other, though many just prefer to sit and talk, eat and play cards.

My mom's no different. But Rita is!

If we arrive at 8:30, as the doors are opened, Rita is stretching and preparing her body for a good time. If we arrive between 8:45 am and 9 am, Rita can be found waving at you from the gym treadmill or the stationary bike or the rowing machine. By 9:30, she is sharing coffee with the group, laughing and talking with that squeaky, almost fingernail against the blackboard, voice of hers. She doesn't laugh, she cackles. When she speaks, she's waving those long, thin and bony hands everywhere. And, she likes to point her fingers at you for effect. By 10 am or so, Rita hops into her car and drives to the nursing home to visit her younger sister.

She reminds me of my father, who would always reply when asked about his condition, "I'm doing great!"

Not just fine, not okay and certainly not one of the maudlin, self-pitying, "I'll be okay" in a voice that trails off into some dramatic silent oblivion. No...

"I'm doing GREAT!"

"Well, okay Rita. What's on your schedule for today? How's your younger sister doing, still up and down? What's her prognosis, girl?"

"Lay some on me," I say, as I raise my hand up for a high five.

She gives me an eager five as well as a boney hug, and as she does, she squeaks that she has to go to the dermatologist to have a cancerous mole cut out from her cheek.

"When we were young, we used to spend a long time sunning ourselves on the beach,"she said, with a wrinkled wink of the eye. "You know back then, getting a tan was how we attracted the boys!"

"I guess I'm paying for it now!"

"Hey," I replied, in a sympathetically squeaky voice, "You ain't doing so bad for ninety-four years on earth!"

"Oh, did I tell you I was ninety-four?"

"I'm sorry, sometimes I lie and sometimes, I just forget!"

"I'm actually only... eighty-nine!"

Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III