Tuesday, June 15, 2010


When I first came to this part of Florida, first started spending time here, there was a woman in one of the shops across the street, someone I came to like, whose company, however brief, I always enjoyed. Her name was Angela. Sadly, a few years back, Angela got very ill and passed away. I have missed her and often remember some random remark she tossed off, one either funny or right on target. That Angela is gone, but these day blessings come in pairs, or at least they do in this case.

Not long after returning here two months ago, I began reading to an elderly woman, blind and confined to a wheelchair. I found her a bit raspy at first and wondered if our time together was going to work out. Her name is Angela. My initial impression was shaped by the circumstances I unknowingly entered into, and I know now that I was mistaken in describing her as abrasive. I also know now that another Angela is here to take up the slack.

Compare opposites and you’ll have some idea of the two personalities. Angela 1 was water, and Angela 2 is fire, both of them great. I have a hundred good things to say about the first Angela, but this time number two gets the spotlight.

I know only a few details about the new Angela. She’s German and speaks English with an accent. She was a teenage schoolgirl during the war and came through difficulties with fear and hardship. I learned today that she worked at the library here in town for eleven years. A strict Catholic, she often has me read something from the Bible. She will occasionally stop my reading to ask questions about the text, and none of them trivial. On two or three of our mornings together she has spoken of poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, who has a special place in her heart. Not having read more than a spoonful of Rilke, I am often in the dark about Angela’s comments and occasional quotes from the original German. She wanted to lend me a volume of his poetry, but I can’t read the Germany copy that she offered. It’s very clear that this is an intelligent woman, and despite momentary lapses still sharp as a tack. As for Rilke, I’ve located some German sound files of his poetry on the Internet, and I’m hoping Angela will get a thrill listening to them on the laptop.

In her late 70s or early 80s, Angela’s age is a detail unknown to me. She is in a wheelchair whenever I visit, but something makes me think she has some mobility out of the chair. Looking at her, most would describe an elderly woman with few signs of weakness or poor health. But as I said earlier, she does have lapses when she can’t find a word, or grab onto what she wants to say. She did tell me on one visit that she had been talking with someone at the so-and-so Baptist church about me, but I have to put that down as an imagined conversation. If it is without any suffering or confusion, I’d like to think that Angela will be around for a good while yet.

In the meantime, it looks as if I’ve got some homework to do in the form of Rainer Maria Rilke. Hearing Angela speak of it, I pulled some Rilke stories off the library shelf and read some of one story there, but it was pretty dense prose and I wasn’t tempted to try the whole book. A small volume of his poems in English is what I’ll look for. Don’t want to disappoint Angela.

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About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America