Beatrice, 92 years of age, aphasia, has scrambled her syntax, can’t remember her story, has lost her sense of time. We are sitting in the library of her comfortable home, near the windows, in big plush chairs, a perfect blue sky outside and a row of trees, newly green.I have become her memory. I’m the only person she seems to recognize. She has a worried expression
" Can I ask you a question?" She asks, in an intimate tone, a rich alto voice, scratchy, like the late Elaine Stricth. I nod my head. " Are we married?"
" No, my dear, we aren’t married."
" I feel like I am going to cry," she says, riding a wave of terror. She is dressed elegantly, black tunic with a string of pearls, her hair done up, a soft silver. Her agitation reminds me of a heroine in a Henry James novel, a high strung elegance." I don’t know my address! I don’t know where I live?"
I pick up the unopened letter in her lap and point to the address and tell her, " Sweetheart, this is your address."
She looks blankly at it. " My mother and father," she is getting upset," they live near here, can you find their address?"
" Your mother and father died, Beatrice, over twenty years ago-"
" Oh yeah, I forgot…I want to cry but I must stop myself from crying…"
" And when you stop your self from crying then what happens?"
She says nothing for a long time. Then she blurts out," I feel like a baby-"
" And what does that baby want to have happen?"
She makes a fist with her right hand, puts in on her solar plexus and declares," It is a great power!"
" Is there anything else about that great power?" I point to the gesture she is making.Then she goes into a deeper space, ( my metaphor) and I sit with her for a long time without an answer, without a clue. We are both of us at the edge of our maps-
Later, we are having dinner with two other ladies, with dementia. It is interesting having conversations with three ladies with dementia. No one really knows what time is. None of the ladies can remember if they ordered. They cant hear each other. Beatrice is hard of hearing. I do my best to keep them entertained.
During dinner, Beatrice is all smiles and takes my hand and kisses it. I am a bit embarrassed. She says," I have had a lovely day."
That night, I had a hard time sleeping. I kept thinking about Beatrice and how I could have done a better job. I perhaps should have asked more developing questions and not leaped to the intention of the baby so quickly-oh well…
Then I slip into dream time. I am dreaming. I am in the dark, in a bus, full of shadowy sleeping figures. I become fully lucid. I move towards the bus driver. I touch his shoulder and I ask, " Who are you?"
He turns around and says," That is hard to answer. You see, I have no identity." He looks like a cubist painting, he has several noses, and many eyes, and I am amused and disturbed by my incapacity to understand anything now.
The bus fades and I am in a dark void, floating and feeling fine, and I recite the 23rd Psalm.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…
The words lift me upwards until I feel a kind of bifurcation and I morph beyond the body mind into a kind of dance form. I am the center of a giant tornado and from that still center 'I ’ can spill outward, and from the center, all kinds of abstract geometric images are constantly emerging and then from the ‘root’ chakra at the base of this dream body dancing comes the rush of an ecstatic energy, that feels so good it frightens me. I dont think I can tolerate this ecstasy-
Beatrice has passed away, a few months ago, and I was with her when she transitioned. I have kept good notes on our infinite conversations. I have yet to re-orient myself, after her passing, a beautiful terrible experience, and I feel like the twist in a Mobius strip, both inside and outside, neither inside nor outside, the intermittent zone, a lovely adagio, moving slowly, arm in arm, a warm summer night.
This is a rough sketch of something that I would like to develop further. I share it here because I’m looking for a pattern that connects, and a difference that makes a difference.
And who is driving the bus? I’m not sure it really matters that much anymore. I can just sit on my firescape at sunset and enjoy the tree swaying in the breeze and sip my vino-