Originally posted July 20, 2008
Florence is 62 in this picture from the mid-1980s.
Now, 83, she is not only refusing to get out of bed, she is refusing visitors anything but her back.
K., the recreational therapist managed to get Florence to turn to her by playing a sonatina badly on her portable electric keyboard. Annoyed by sloppy playing, Florence rolled over to K., corrected her mistakes and then rolled back into her little corner. K. didn't give up. She began mispronouncing composers' names. It worked. Florence faced her and thus began a lesson in how one is required to speak.
A couple of days later, finished with my swimming lesson which actually went... swimmingly (in other words, I did not drown), I looked down from the glass balcony at the gym's pool filled with bodies going back and forth, and recalled a recent conversation with her former girlfriend who had loved her since they were teenagers ("Your mother was a great swimmer, your mother could swim anywhere, your mother....").
Years ago before we knew her memory had begun step behind closed doors to hide her accidents and mistakes, I got her to talk into a microphone about the place she loved more than her piano.
(See Daughter Of Coney at myprivateconey.com/audio )
Perhaps wondering if I too could coax Florence to roll back into life, I called.
"Hello Florence, I just finished another swimming lesson!"
"I used to go swimming. I swim," Florence said.
"I know. In the ocean." (I had to shout this because she had forgotten how to hold the phone up to her ear and my cell phone in a cavernous gym wasn't helping.)
"Right. And then you sit on the boardwalk, watch the people and they see you alone and they try to strike up a conversation."
"Get out of bed and I'll take you to Coney."
"NOT Coney. It's Coney Island. Coney ISLAND."
"Get out of bed and I'll take you to Coney ISLAND."
"OK. Maybe tomorrow. Don't eat too much. And lie down."
And with that she clicked off to roll back into her resting spot.
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