The doors of the lift slid open and I found Frau B sitting in her wheelchair, waiting.
Heaviness hung in the air. It was a bad day for me to be late.
“I’ve been so sad this past while,” she said when we were back in her room. “I couldn’t hold back the tears.”
We looked out the window at the tree. Its stark crown stood out against the grey sky. A gust of wind swept a handful of orange leaves off its lower branches. We watched them swirl to the ground.
“The weather doesn’t help,” she said.
We’d arranged to clear out the wardrobe, a task I was not looking forward to. Frau B is a back-seat tidier.
“No Katechen!” she will say as I stand haplessly before the wardrobe. “Hang it up so the zip faces left!”
“No!” she exclaims when I do what I’m told. “Put it over there with the blouses.”
We got the job done, and by the time I’d closed the wardrobe door, Frau B’s sadness had morphed to anger.
I found out when I tried to convince her that a sticker might be the solution to an ongoing problem she’s been having with her television.
Frau B’s fingers are crooked and hook-like so she often ends up pressing the wrong button on her remote control.
This results in a maddening situation where she cannot remove the teletext from the screen.
My suggested solution, as with all uncooperative technology, is to turn the offending device off and on again.
But there’s little point if you don’t know where the on button is. So I’d brought along some luminous stickers I thought could be used to mark the right button.
Frau B was having none of it.
“That’s not the on button,” she insisted when I showed her. “It’s somewhere down here.”
I politely persevered.
“NO Katechen!” she snapped. “That’s NOT where it is!”
I put the stickers away.
“You meant well,” she said.
I reached for the book and we continued the story about Rosa Luxembourg, which had captivated Frau B last week.
I was a few sentences in when she asked me to stop. “Let’s just chat instead,” she said.
Frau B’s sadness-turned anger had morphed into remorse.
“You’re my one and only, Katechen” she said. “You really have no idea where I’d be without you….”
Her eyes were glistening and her gaze reached far beyond me.
“And me without you!” I said, with that false kind of brightness that stops you from welling up.
“And I was so snappy with you!” she said.
“My mother always said I would find someone to take care of me in old age,” she said. “And then you came along.”
“You see, mothers are always right!” I said, and made her laugh.
We sat there for a while, looking at the falling leaves, safe in the knowledge that this kind of melancholy too would lift.