“It’s a life of art,” he said. His meaning was not clear to Carolina.
“Ted, is this an art-filled life, or is life so beautiful to you that it is art-like?”
Carolina had been visiting this “adult day care center,” for lack of a better word—and the facility seemed to lack any more dignity-preserving description—every Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. for just over two months. It was a field placement for her Aging and Dying class at her local, private, east coast university, a Jesuit school whose mission is public service and whose tuition is out of reach.
Ted had just begun coming into the day care center himself. An eighty-one-year-old grandfather of six, he presented with recurrent forgetfulness and a kind heart. He had practiced corporate law in his younger days, Carolina knew, but what he’d done since his retirement at seventy was a mystery. It didn’t have to be; she just had not spent much time with Ted yet.
“Since you have started coming in here, I’ve spent so much time with Georgeanne,” Carolina said of another center regular, an eighty-six-year-old retired schoolteacher and grandmother of two, who regaled Carolina with her cherished family stories and seemed to suffer from no ailments other than a recent widowhood that required Georgeanne to keep Kleenex in her perpetual grip, for dabbing at her eyes or just clutching to her heart for emphasis.
“You have such beautiful eyes, Ted,” Carolina said. They were kind, big, blue. “That’s almost all I know about you.”
“What evidence do you have to support that statement, young lady?” Ted countered, as if in a courtroom. He was attempting a joke, she thought, but his eyes were not twinkling. They looked foggy. She thought he might be stalling for time, searching his addled brain for her question.
“Are you an artist, Ted? Or if life like art to you?”
“What kind of a question is that?” he scoffed. He huffed and left the table, joining a lively discussion led by Georgeanne, two tables over.
“So that is why life is like art to me,” Carolina heard Georgeanne say, Carolina’s classmate and fellow volunteer taking furious notes.