We met at a Mexican restaurant, her choice but she'd never been there.
"I heard it's good," she said, adjusting her pink hat and rosary necklace. The necklace was the only thing not pink about her, and I'd never seen her like this, with earrings and bright clothes. The last time we were together there was snow, and she wore five pairs of socks. Boots, knit cap, sweatshirt, all dark, drab colors, and just a hint of a smile. Today, Patty was smiling big.
Patty used to be homeless. She stayed at the homeless shelter where I worked, though not when I was there, and we namedrop like old friends. I never knew her boyfriend, who died on the streets, but I can picture her, I must admit, as one of them. And now she's in a category that doesn't have enough members.
She's off the streets. She has an apartment. She's thriving as best as someone with limited resources can.
And what she told me over her burrito and my tacos is that she's never going back. "I'm going to keep moving forward," she said, cutting off a small bite, manageable for missing teeth, with the side of her fork.
"Do you think you can help me, Amy?"
I didn't know but I couldn't say such a thing, as the man was losing hope. He'd seen his doctor and a physical therapist and yet still, the pain was there. Maybe I'd know a few exercises that could help? I thought so, until that first day came and I was meeting with an 89-year-old man and the fear settled in to suggest that maybe, just maybe, I'm out of my league here. I could hurt him in my ignorance. I couldn't live with that, but I also couldn't live with being added to the list of people who didn't help.
"Sure, we can meet."
"It's worth a try, Amy."
And so we took it slowly. I carefully managed the amount of moving we'd do within our time. We got to know each other. And what I came to see is that this older person is just a person, special not because he's older but because he has not given up. He has not accepted his aches and pains as a given. He's moving forward--slowly, carefully, but in the right direction.