The Equalizer: A holiday story from the ‘Before’ time

Louise, a petite, 79-year-old woman, was the roommate of another resident I was seeing for psychotherapy at the nursing home.

Louise sat by the B bed watching TV and working her needlepoint, anchoring the tapestry frame against her chest with one arm while she slowly pushed the needle through with her good hand.

“Hello! Please excuse us for a little while,” I said as I pulled the curtain for “privacy” to talk in hushed tones with Cynthia, who was dying of cancer.

I wasn’t too sure how much Louise could understand since her speech was garbled and unintelligible, but she always acknowledged my greetings when I arrived for my weekly sessions.

Once, she waved me over to her side of the room and pointed to something she had dropped on the floor. Handing it to her, I got a better glimpse of her needlework, which was surprisingly neat considering her physical constraints.

“That’s lovely,” I told her.

She pointed to the framed floral works covering her windowsill and walls.

“Wow, impressive!”

She nodded, seeming pleased with my compliment.

I pulled the curtain to focus on Cynthia, who was growing weaker.

Two months after I began my visits, I learned in morning report that Cynthia had died. Sitting among my coworkers, I offered a silent prayer and farewell.

I wondered how Louise was doing. It didn’t seem like she and Cynthia had had much interaction, but nevertheless I stopped by later that day to offer my condolences.

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