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A Woman I Admire Writing Competition Spring 2018

Caoimhe Toireasa

Molly is ninety-six years old. Every day she sits in the same corner of the same communal sitting room with the same checked blanket over her knees, a blanket deliberately chosen because it has tassles, and these tassles can occupy her, says the nurse at the home, give her something to do, to fidget with, to fuss over. Molly has dementia and so she greets me like a stranger every time that we meet, her faded days such that she claims to be no more than seventy, because this is when her memory stops. Yet Molly I adore. She sticks her tongue out. She talks about long walks with her dogs in fields tall with grass, the first time she drank alcohol (with her parents, trying sups), the old names that are gone, the sun streaming through the window. She says, you are going to be just as old as I am someday - are you ready for that? She says, what need have we for boys? She says, what good is learning if you're not loving it for you'll only forget it. She says that she still misses her mother. Molly makes my heart ache. She remembers things suddenly sometimes and falters; there are things, I know, that she is glad to forget. Sometimes, she says, ‘Look at me. Just look.’ And her eyes are so blue when they look straight in mine. Molly makes me laugh with her past, her grazed-knee sun-bleached tree-climbing school-skiving days. But Molly always does something to my mind. She makes me think differently. She makes me see things as though in a different hue, as though just ever so slightly new. She makes me think of the people who must just want to talk. She makes me think of the people trapped in their heads, and of the people whose own minds are losing themselves instead. Molly is a woman so strong in her frailty that I know I shall never forget her or lose even a hint of the brilliance she was. I can still feel the fibres of the carpet in my knees as I knelt by her chair. I can still feel her hands which I held from the tassles. I can still see her waving, as I left as a friend, and I can still see the difference with which she introduced herself on my return, a week later, a new face again. I only volunteered at that nursing home once a week. One Sunday I went in and her armchair was empty. She never returned. And I thought about asking, and weeping for her. But I decided to keep her with me instead. I can never know how much I truly knew Molly, but I loved the woman I met. She was open even when she knew not where she was. She was a compassion, a kindness and a courage unique. She was admirable, and she was real.

Caoimhe Toireasa © 2018