Doris lived in the same nursing home as my grandmother. Both were residents in an Alzheimer’s unit; a lock down facility meant for the safety of its patients where a password is required to get in and out.
The day we met, she was waiting just inside the door where I literally ran into her. She was at least 5’10 tall and lean.
I’m only 5’2.
“Hello” I said to her chest, suddenly feeling very short.
"My son will be here any minute to pick me up" she stated anxiously, peering through the glass windows.
"I hope you have a lovely time together" I said, smiling.
The next morning I could hear someone shouting as I entered the unit.
It was Doris.
“Good morning” I called pleasantly.
She was on the phone at the nurse’s station.
"Don’t bother me now, I’m busy. Operator? OPERATOR? There’s something wrong with this PHONE!!!!"
Nurse Pam told me that Doris didn't know how to get an outside line, so she’d eventually tire of the phone and move on. Until she did, it was better for everyone to leave her be.
A few days later I stopped by with some clean clothes for Grandma. Doris was at her usual perch next to the door, quietly waiting.
Just then an elderly man in a wheelchair made the mistake of rolling by.
She pointed a long bony finger at the hapless victim.
"Harry you old son of a gun, you treat me worse than a dog!" she bellowed.
The poor fellow burned rubber faster than Mario Andretti.
Nurse Pam whispered that his name wasn’t Harry.
It was Charlie.
Of course we had a giggle over that.
The following Saturday afternoon, Doris was by the door with a beautiful beaded purse on her lap.
"Your bag is gorgeous Doris" I said with a smile.
"This isn’t a bag dear. It’s a hat" she corrected.
Then she opened it, wedged it on her head and started doing a one woman kick line dance; a really good one too.
I stood there stunned.
"Doris is a former Radio City Music Hall Rockette" Nurse Pam said informatively.
“Does she do this often?” I asked.
“Only for people she likes. She doesn’t like many people so you must be pretty special.”
Wow. In the years since her last performance she hadn’t lost her ability to light up a room.
The more I whistled and clapped, the more Doris kicked and shimmied until she plopped down into a chair, exhausted.
"If you want me to dance some more it will cost you fifty dollars" she gasped.
It would have been worth every penny.
Nurse Pam told me that Doris was all alone in the world. The son she waited for so patiently had died years earlier while serving in the Vietnam War. He was single and had no children.
Day after day, she sat by the door for someone who would never come.
My eyes filled with tears of pity.
I believe God placed Doris in my path because she needed someone besides the nurses and orderlies in her life.
The decision was easy. I adopted a very tall, honorary grandma.
When I visit, she greets me with a huge grin and a crushing hug. Lonely and hungry for affection, Nurse Pam tells me how much Doris looks forward to our visits. I look forward to them too.
Finding room in my heart for Doris reminds me of what a very wise person told me long ago.
You can never have too many people to love, or too many people to love you.