Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Woman with the White Face

Yesterday I decided it was time to take C. to the clinic to see about his memory, and so took the day off work at the last minute. I called C.’s friend Don to see if he concurred, and once I told him what I’ve been noticing about C.’s memory, he thought it was a good idea.

C. agreed to this expedition at first, but when the time drew nearer, he began to sound reluctant, and I was afraid I was going to have taken a day off work for nothing, but in the end, we headed down to 16th Street, to the Mission Neighborhood Health Center. Though evidently not at all perturbed about it, he had no idea where we were going, and once or twice inquired. I said, “We’re going to the Mission Neighborhood Health Center,” and he reacted as if he’d never heard of it, though that’s where he almost always gets his health care. He asked where it is, and seemed to be unfamiliar with the notion of 16th St., though he’s lived near it for at least 30 years.

Near La Cumbre, we encountered this homeless woman we’ve seen three or four times before. Her face is always covered with something white and she explained to us one time that you don’t have to put eye shadow on your eyelids only—you can put it all over your face. She’s the sweetest thing, and when I saw her yesterday, I burst into tears, overwhelmed with grief about this woman on the sidewalk with eye shadow all over her face and about whatever was happening with C. We stopped and I gave her some money, tears splashing onto the sidewalk, which C. didn’t really notice, or only in passing. In any event, he’s less fazed by tears than anyone I’ve ever met. He tears up easily himself and doesn’t think crying is a strange thing for other people to do. Maybe it’s also because he spends so much time with little kids in his capacity as a substitute teacher.

We arrived at the clinic, where everyone was delighted to see C. By the time we left, the security guard was his new best friend. People love him. We went to the front desk and the kind woman there asked C., “What brings you here?” and he said serenely, “I can’t remember,” and I said, “That’s why we’re here.” I asked C. if he’d mind if I said a few things and he said that would be fine and I told the woman C. could no longer remember if he’d been to work or not, and she made us an appointment for Thursday with a doctor who is a co-director of the clinic.

Then we walked back toward our neighborhood and took a cab for a few blocks and spent some time in Borderlands CafĂ©, and then went to C.’s house. I wrote in his calendar book on the page for Thursday, in all caps, “Linda coming over at 10:30 on Thursday February 14 to walk with me to Mission Neighborhood Health Center appointment at 11:30. I am going to talk to Dr. Alvarez about my memory.” He puzzled and puzzled over that, reading parts of it aloud and asking what it meant. After a bit, I made the mistake of asking him if he was frightened, which then of course made him think there was something to be anxious about, and he said maybe he’d spend some time alone, and I went home.

But then I got to thinking that maybe C. is having a series of small strokes. Maybe this isn’t dementia at all, and I called Don again, and he thought it would be not a bad idea to take C. to the emergency room at San Francisco General Hospital, so I called C. to see if he was amenable and was pleasantly surprised to find that he was. I went online and reserved a City CarShare car, and as I walked to fetch it, I left Charlie a message saying that I wouldn’t be calling him after all, because Don and I were going to take C. to the emergency room.

I picked up C. and then we went to get Don out in the avenues and then went to the ER, where of course we waited and waited and waited. I had to stand up the entire time—bordering on three hours—because there is no piece of furniture in that room that I would allow to touch any part of my person or any garment thereon.

Dinner was various crunchy things from the vending machine. After a couple of hours, Charlie arrived. He’d heard my message, and lives near there. C. became restive and we could see that he wasn’t getting worse by the minute, anyway, so we decided just to let it go until his appointment Thursday, and I drove everyone home.
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