The cold air that surprised my lungs tonight brought back a memory of meeting a woman named Claudia last January. She called me in need of the services our antiques and collectibles company provides. The very sweet woman said she had been dealing with her mother’s estate because her mom has Alzheimer’s.
My girlfriend/business partner Won-ok and I drove over to a Silver Spring retirement community to meet Claudia and see if Orion's Attic could help. She looked like she was in her 60s maybe, with a face that looked even younger. She greeted us in a mobilized wheelchair that she said she uses to help her get around faster. We didn't think much about it and sprinted behind her to her mom's vacated unit. Claudia dazzled us with kindness in humor -- a brave face we thought she was putting on when her mother's condition had to be sucking the life out of her.
We didn’t find much we could use. We bought a couple of boxes of china and a bit of jewelry. She mentioned something about her other home in York, Pennsylvania. She said she needed help emptying that home, too. We told her we love that town and would certainly be back there again in spring to watch minor league baseball. Our Southern Maryland Blue Crabs independent league baseball team play the York Revolution every season. We told her we could make a weekend out of it and help her while we were in town.
She looked up at us from her scooter.
“I won’t be alive by then,” she said, struggling to restrain a wall of tears. "That's what the doctors tell me."
I flinched. There was nothing about her that suggested she was suffering from a fatal illness. I had no idea what to say.
Claudia filled the silence by thanking us for coming and telling us that she greatly appreciated our time. She wished us well.
I tried to return her gaze and wish her strength, doing all I could to avoid stammering in shock.
Won-ok and I said goodbye and exited the building and made our way toward our car. The cold air punched me in the lungs.