By Patricia O’Brien
In college I got a part-time job as a companion to an elderly widow named Fran, driving her around town and assisting with errands: post office, hairdresser, the market, her psychiatrist. The routine was set, and all was well for many months.
But one day, something unusual happened. Fran opened her door with a grand flourish, eyes shining. The television, radio, and blender were blasting. “Shall we go,” I asked, hurrying to turn off the noisy electronics.
“Fran,” I observed, “the blender’s empty.”
“Let’s not bother with tiresome details. I’m out of my head today,” she said, with purposeful excitement. At the pharmacy, this time, I took notice of the medication I picked up for her: lithium.
“What’s lithium for?” I asked, sliding into the car.
“A bipolar disorder. Not to worry. I’ve navigated these choppy seas half my life.”
We did errands. All the while, she acted like she was on the campaign trail for mayor, laughing, waving to friends, and smoking up a storm. At the market she hugged the meat manager, who was arranging Italian sausages. He looked confused, but smiled and told her there was a special on calf’s liver.
“I’ll take it all,” she declared, making a grand gesture with her newly acquired Cecil B. DeMille tendencies. Read the rest of this entry ?