Sadie sat on the leather-look chair next to her bed, staring into space. Three layered dresses covered her ample frame, the hems poking out from under her long sweater. She wore her hair in one simple braid and her face was devoid of make-up. Her skin was deeply black and her features were coarse. An enormous wart graced the tip of her nose.
“Hi Ms. Young. I’m Dr. Julie Stedberg.”
Sadie continued staring.
“Ms. Young!” I raised my voice. “Hello There.”
She turned to look at me and smiled. “Hi!”
“I’m Dr. Julie Stedberg, The Psychologist.”
“MY NAME IS JULIE. I CAME TO TALK TO YOU.”
“Oh, okay. Sit down on my bed.”
I closed the door and positioned myself close to her side.
“IS THIS YOUR GOOD EAR?”
“Sure, sure, I can hear you. What did you say your name was?”
“That’s a nice name. I’m Sadie. You know how old I am?”
“HOW OLD ARE YOU?”
“I’m ninety-five! And I can still walk around. Ain’t that something?”
“THAT’S GREAT, SADIE. YOU’RE A LUCKY WOMAN.”
“Yeah, I sure am lucky ‘bout that. C’mon, let me show you how I can walk.”
“IT’S OKAY, SADIE, I BELIEVE YOU.”
“No, I’m going to show you. C’mon.”
She grabbed the sides of her chair and hoisted herself slowly to her feet, rocking slightly as she reached her full height. Leaning heavily on her quad cane, she took a step and then steadied herself.
“Let’s go to the Atrium. It’s nice there.”
Sadie moved slowly, her dresses rustling around her. Cane, left foot…right foot. Cane, left foot…right foot. She crept along, determined to show me she could make it to the Atrium, a forty-foot journey.
“SO HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AT THE NURSING HOME, SADIE?”
“I been here over…seben years.”
“DO YOU LIKE IT?”
“It’s all right. It gets mighty…lonesome…sometimes.”
Sadie’s face grew damp with exertion and I abandoned my attempt at conversation. Let me just get her safely to the chair in the Atrium, I thought, as I watched her snail’s progress and unsteady gait.
As we crept around the first corner, Jeb, one of the macho young paraplegics, came flying toward us in his wheelchair, his massive arms pumping furiously, his hostile expression suggesting earlier speed limit warnings.
“Oh Lordy!” Sadie cried out, freezing in her spot.
“WATCH OUT!” I cried, moving Sadie toward the wall and shielding her with my body.
Jeb sped toward us, his face a derisive sneer, then jerked his wheelchair into a sudden right turn and disappeared into his room.
“Oh my Lord Jesus,” Sadie exclaimed, “That boy’s gonna give me a heart attack!”
“ARE YOU OKAY, SADIE? DO YOU WANT ME TO GET YOU A CHAIR?”
“Just give me a moment. I’ll be okay.”
I watched her closely, as she pulled out a handkerchief and slowly mopped her brow. Breathing deeply, she began her progress again. Cane, left foot…right foot. I stayed close to her side and scanned the hallway for sudden intruders.
Cane, left foot…right foot. We reached the Atrium and Sadie plopped herself down on the chair with relief.
“SADIE, I’M GOING TO GET US SOME WATER, OKAY?”
“Oh, yes…thank you. I could…use some…water.”
I returned with two small plastic cups filled with ice water, ready to collect information for my initial interview, but Sadie was fast asleep.