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It Really Does Take A Village

, , , | Friendly | February 28, 2023

During college, I rented a room in a small town about half an hour from campus. When I say “small”, I mean that it was the kind of town where a new stop sign makes headlines. My landlady’s son graduated from the local school — not high school, school — and his graduating class was him and a set of twins. It was a SMALL town.

The day I moved in, my landlady was going over the house rules and telling me about what was available in town: a general store/gas station and a really small restaurant.

Landlady: “Oh, if Mrs. [Woman] comes up to you, just play along and let me know what she said to you.”

Me: “Who’s Mrs. [Woman]?”

Landlady: “You shouldn’t run into her if you don’t spend a lot of time walking around town. Don’t worry; she’s harmless and really a sweetheart. She’s just confused is all.”

Fast forward a few weeks. One Saturday, I decided to check out the restaurant, and there was no reason to drive when I could just walk.

I had just passed the general store when I heard an older woman call out:

Woman: “[Not My Name]! So wonderful to see you again, darling. How have you been?”

The next thing I knew, a little old lady was giving me a quick hug while I stood like a deer in headlights.

Woman: “It really is wonderful to see you. Can you give me a hand with the groceries if it’s not too much trouble?”

She held out a single shopping bag. Being a Boy Scout, my first response was to take the bag and offer her my arm.

During the half-a-block walk from the general store to her home, Mrs. [Woman] continued to refer to me as [Not My Name]. She asked me about my mother and if she was doing well, she asked if “our James” had written recently from the war. She wanted to know if I had heard about how the [Family] girl had just had twins and what I thought of the names she had picked. She also said that if my little brother wasn’t otherwise employed this weekend, she would like to have her lawn mowed. We got to her door, I said I would ask him, and I bid her farewell.

That night, I told my landlady about our conversation.

Landlady: “Oh, the [Family] twins and the war… She’s in the 1970s again. That’s not bad. I’ll call the preacher after dinner.”

Me: “Okay, so who is she, and what exactly is going on?”

Landlady: “Mrs. [Woman] had a very tragic life. She lost just about everyone in her life — six siblings, her parents, and her husband — and had at least three stillbirths, all before she was twenty-five. That sort of broke the poor thing. She isn’t sure what year it is, and she knows everyone by name but never calls anybody by the same name twice. Her family used to own most of the town, so she was well-known before her break. In the beginning, I think they thought she might come back to her senses someday, but now we don’t have much hope for that.”

Me: “Why isn’t she in a care facility?”

Landlady: “Why should she be? She can take care of herself, and she’s in good health. If she needs something, she asks for it, like today with the lawn care. I’ll let the preacher know, and tomorrow, he’ll ask if anyone wants to go round her place with a mower. She has a cousin in the city managing her trust fund, so all her bills get paid on time. She’s ours. We can take care of her ourselves.”

I think about Mrs. [Woman] a lot now and wonder how she’s doing these days. I’m sure her town still takes care of her if she needs it.

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