Each time I ask her how she’s doing, Claudine seldom replies something different: “Waiting… I keep on, waiting..”, she mumbles. After trading all her material possessions in exchange for a decent elderly life, Claudine was placed in a care home a couple of months following her 102nd birthday.
She owned a beautiful flat and many landmark objects testifying a century of memories only to witness today, an entire existence being squeezed in a tiny closet. In her newly occupied room, furnitures look like permanent movie sets, serving over and over as final storages of a few remaining belongings.
Missing her previous life, she avoids any conversation about the things she left behind. “I don’t look back or ahead. Both are painful”.
Condemned to a sharp mind, she fails to connect with the rest of the residents and figures out alternative ways to stay mentally active. The smart recruitment of visitors in potential scrabble adversaries gives her more satisfaction than the actual beating of every single one of them. I pay her several visits during the year where instead of being a photographer, I’m gradually turning into a scrabble genius.
They are walking around like this every day without talking. Many rounds, I don't know how many.
We didn't know what was inside the Christmas boxes...I took the red one .. most of the others got coussin-dogs ... but I was lucky, I prefer my little kitten, I like the expression on her face when she is looking through the window.
Caring to be informed about what happens in the world, she listens to the news every day through an analogue radio, then debates quite sharply on a variety of issues, providing interesting and valid arguments.
I came to realize that she wasn’t waiting at all. She’s was struggling to keep a sane mind. The waiting was for the body. Couldn’t possibly follow.
The last time I saw her, it was January. I noticed new objects decorating her room. A month earlier, Christmas gifts in colorful boxes were distributed to all residents. She was happy and, once more, surprised to see me. Couldn’t understand why I kept coming back or what I was getting in return. “I’m of no use to you, I’m of no use to anybody anymore”, she kept on saying. I smiled and said that she was my scrabble coach, a role that she’d better take more seriously.
When I left that day, little kitten was still staring at the sky through the window. Claudine followed me to the door and waved smiling, as if I was never going to see her again. But… she always does that, and I always come back…