After returning to work from spell of illness and injuries I noticed my friend Erma wasn’t sitting in the common area like she has every day for the last 5 years. Her name wasn’t really Erma, I just called her that by accident one day after mixing her name up with Herman. She was hard to get to know. She was like myself, not talkative but aware. Occasionally I would sit in the chair next to her and watch the world go by. She knew everyone’s routine, when they left, when they came back on what days they had appointments, who’s cab was who’s, etc. I even found myself asking her if she’d seen someone I was looking for. That was the extent of our conversations for a few years. Her facial expression never changed I noticed. Slowly we began to talk and she started opening up to me. Not a lot just basic things like her daughter and sister. One day I said something about myself, I did something foolish and she laughed. That was the funniest laugh I ever heard and one I felt I worked too hard to get. From then on I tried to make her laugh every day. It didn’t always work but it was worth the effort. The chairs we sat in were sliders, I didn’t like them because my phone would go under the wooden armrest and I’d get stuck in the chair. She got a kick out of that. Erma would slightly go back and forth and I would grab the back of the chair to stop it, her body moved forward but the chair didn’t. Once in a while she’d laugh at that, or I would bump her chair with a cart. Other times I would walk at her and hold something like I was about to hand it to her then pull it away and say, “SIKE”. This earned me the name “Joker”. Not “The Joker” or “A Joker”, just Joker like in Batman. And that was my name to her from then on. Then around last Christmas she was dressed in her winter coat. She sat there for several hours and when I finally had a chance I asked if she was cold and if I should turn the heat up. She said she missed her cab because she couldn’t stand up. I noticed she only had one arm in her coat also. Every morning I made it a point to see if she had her coat. I would linger around the common area and if a cab pulled up I’d ask if it was for her. I started helping her up and putting her coat on then walking her out the security doors where the cab drivers usually took over.
My last illness was pneumonia, which I thought was a cold (and it was too late to mention in my other post). When I returned to work Erma wasn’t sitting in her spot. Twice the first week I was back I saw her going into her room and the door shutting. After I thought about it, it wasn’t really her but the colors of her, like her white tennis shoes, blue pants and maroon walker. It wasn’t like her to stay in her room so I asked the busy bodies, who do nothing but squawk BS all day every day, if they said something to her. They said she had died the week before from pneumonia in the hospital. After working with the family to remove her belongings we started get her unit ready to put on the market. The painters came in, the maintenance was done and the cleaners did their job. I did a final walk through just to check on things. I found this card in the back of the kitchen drawer. R.I.P Erma.