Ozella couldn’t remember where her room was tonight. “Do you know where I live?” she asked. “No,” I replied as I hugged her and kissed her cheek. She had hold of my hand and wasn’t letting go anytime soon. Not that I minded. She’s one of my favorites. “Neither do I!” she said with a chuckle.
She’s a timepiece, that Ozella–with her perfectly coiffed hair, purple eye-shadow and red, red lipstick. She’s always dressed like she’s on her way to the theater (back when people dressed up for the theater), and smiles with eyes as sparkly as the rhinestones dangling from her ears, round her neck, and adorning every finger. She’s one of my regulars, always on the front row, and until tonight, she would mouth every word of every song I sang. “It’s so I don’t forget the words,” she would say. “I don’t want to forget the words.”
But tonight, she didn’t much sing along.
We’ve had many come and go since we started spending evenings with the residents of Barton Creek Assisted Living. And until tonight, though it’s been sad when one month someone’s there and the next they’re not, I’ve understood. It’s the cycle of life. We’re born, we live, we die.
But tonight, when Ozella didn’t know where her room was. And when Helen, who saves her Birds and Butterflies magazines for us, wasn’t there. And when Jack didn’t know he’d been there before. And when we noticed Irene’s obituary on the counter at the front desk … I couldn’t help but struggle to find a place to put it all.
My friends … Ozella, Helen, Irene, Afton, Ruth, Jack, the woman in the front row, who’s gone blind over the last year, and claps after every song shouting (loudly), “More! More!”, her husband who wears a blue one-piece jumpsuit and whispers (loud enough for me to hear), “beautiful” when I really nail it, the man who requested “Always” every month becuase it was his late wife’s favorite and cried every time.
They clap even when I hit wrong notes or forget the words. They tell me it was the most lovely concert they’ve ever heard. They squeeze my hand like it’s the first time they’ve held a hand in forever. And I love it. Because it’s been a while since I held a hand too.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I guess I’m writing because I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget what they look like, or the scent of their perfumes, or how they made me feel. Because someday I, like Ozella, might not remember where I live.
And I want someone to know my story.