A friend loves at all times . . .—PROVERBS 17:17 [NIV]
The doors of the elevator at the assisted-living facility opened to reveal my grandmother sitting in the same spot where I always found her, on the loveseat beneath the lobby’s picture window. This floor of the building was special; it was the dementia unit, where cookstoves in the apartments’ tiny kitchenettes weren’t plugged in and water heater temperatures were set low so residents couldn’t scald themselves.
Grandmother didn’t notice me at first. But as I walked toward her, her eyes lit up.
“I’m glad you’re here . . .” She struggled for my name but couldn’t find it. I bent down to kiss her cheek.
“You remember Miss Belcher, don’t you?” Grandmother asked, patting the hand of the lady who sat next to her. “She’s my best friend.”
Miss Belcher had lived next door to Grandmother decades ago, when I was just a little girl. She grew beautiful zinnias along the fence that separated her backyard from Grandmother’s and had a collie dog named Bat that never stopped barking. But the lady sitting beside Grandmother wasn’t Miss Belcher. Nor was she the same person who’d sat beside her when I visited yesterday or the day before. No matter. For Grandmother, all of them were her beloved long-lost neighbor.
I bent down to kiss this stranger’s cheek, too. “I’m happy to see you, Miss Belcher,” I said. “And I’m so glad that you and Grandmother are still best friends.”
They looked at each other and smiled.