My Good Deed

A couple of days ago I was reclining in bed reading a Stieg Larsson novel, the third and last story by the Swedish advocate and novelist who died after completing the series of… what are they, thrillers, police procedurals, courtroom/legal dramas? I don’t know, but the third is the weakest of the series. Too much detail, slow-moving sections, a contrived dramatic ending — perhaps Larssen was oppressed by a feeling of impending doom. The series is redeemed by the vividly-depicted character Lisbeth Salander, an autistic savant woman who is prone to violence when crossed. But I digress…

Wednesday afternoon was warm and humid. I had a box fan directed towards the bed which ensured a certain degree of comfort. There are a couple of window AC units out on the porch but the effort to install one is not really worth the effort. This hot spell will pass, and I really don’t need or want extra-large electrical bills.

My apartment spans the house, with the rooms arranged shot-gun style; the screen door to the front porch (which faces east) is directly opposite the back door in the kitchen. Two fans provide a pleasant cross-draft.

Looking towards the west kitchen door:

I was aroused from my concentration on the convoluted novel by a weak rapping at my back door. “Who could that be?”, I thought. I peered across the apartment and saw a hunched-over and white-haired figure at the screened kitchen door saying, “Larry! Larry!”

With a subdued grunt I put the book down and got up in order to investigate this development.

My visitor was my downstairs neighbor Beulah. She’s 85 years old and still manages to drive and live on her own. I stepped out onto the back porch to talk with her.

“Larry, something happened in my back this morning! Something moved back in there… I’ve been in bed all day and I’m wondering if you could drive me to the clinic.”

Who could resist such an entreaty? Certainly not me.

“Why, of course I will, Beulah!”

I met her out front. It took several minutes for the woman to make her way down the porch stairs, walk through her apartment, and appear at the front door. We got in her car. I had to move an improvised booster cushion from the front seat.

“Larry, let’s go through the alley! That way you don’t have to get out on Maine St. and deal with the traffic and all. It’s a straight shot through the alley to the clinic.”

She was right. I let her out at the entrance and went inside to fetch a wheel-chair. The receptionist knew Beulah, and before long I’d positioned the wheel-chair in the waiting room. I left Beulah there and went back outside to park her car.

Back inside I explained to Beulah that I had a meeting to attend at the Unitarian Church.

“Speak up, Larry! I don’t have my hearing aid with me; to tell you the truth, I can’t find the durned thing.”

I raised my voice and said, “My meeting will be over in an hour, and it’ll take at least that long by the time the doctor examines you and they take the X-ray. I’ll just walk over to the church — it’s just five blocks from here.”

“Well, okay. I’ll be here!”

After the meeting I walked back to the clinic. By this time it was after seven in the evening and dusk was approaching. I only had to wait for a few minutes; I spent the time visiting the past with the aid of a year-old issue of Time magazine. Beulah was escorted into the waiting room by a nurse.

“I don’t need the wheel-chair to get back to the car, Larry. Just let me have your arm in case I lose my balance.”

Back in her driveway I tried to figure out how to re-attach the “club” steering wheel locking device. Such accessories are rare in Quincy.

Beulah said, “No, it’s not that key, it’s the next one. I have to use that club because somebody has a key to my car!”

She gave me a cunning and conspiratorial look.

“Whoever it is gets in my car at night and moves things around — but they can’t drive the car away!”

I long ago learned to be polite and noncommittal when I hear such delusional statements. There’s no point in disputing or arguing; rationality is ineffective when dealing with any of the numerous True Believers in our midst.

“Larry, are you nervous?”

“No, I’m not nervous.”

“It’s just that you move so quickly…”

This was likely a result of drinking coffee at the meeting.

As we slowly made our way to Beulah’s front door she stopped to examine the potted calla (or some arum or other) on my step wall. She said, “What is this plant? I used to know all about plants, but my memory has been failing me lately!”

I helped the woman up the three steps to her front door.

“Larry, could you check on me from time to time?”

“Sure, I’ll do that. Remember that you have my phone number to call if you need help. You don’t need to be climbing my rickety back steps.”

Beulah doesn’t have any friends or relatives nearby, I have to come to realize. There is a nephew but she is suspicious of him and his family. She once told me, “They come over every now and then, but I think they are stealing things from me!” More delusions? Who knows…




Filed under Essays and Articles, Quincy

5 responses to “My Good Deed

  1. Joan

    First of all, nice apartment. I like the chair/stool which is holding the fan. Second, you did a good thing, and it’s lucky that the lady trusts you. She seems to be pretty sharp in other ways. If she can drive and be aware of (to her) need to put a steering locking device on her car, and actually buy and know how to use it..she’s doing pretty well. Nevertheless the paranoia sounds like Alzheimers and the suspicion of relatives and possible hallucinations are pretty typical according to this article.
    Your instinct not to argue was good. I like this article because it give tips as to how to handle various situations one might encounter with a person who has delusions.

  2. kathyz

    Hey, Larry. Maybe you can move to san jose and take care of me when I become delusional. Probably sooner than you think.

  3. It’d be the blind leading the blind, Kathy!

  4. Larry, you are a very nice person!
    I am glad I found your blog through Lorriane.
    Have a pleasant week ahead.

  5. Thanks, Sonia! I’ll check out your blog.

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