Who Was Dirty Harry?

mom's room

Mom’s room (photo by me)

Mom and I had our Easter visit on Saturday afternoon. I brought her a card, potted daffodils, a thermos of chai tea and her favorite Choco Leibniz cookies—she calls them “chocolate grahams”—the ones with dark chocolate. Our weekly ritual is sharing tea and cookies, taking “spins” around the floor and watching an episode of ER on the DVD player—it’s her favorite TV show. Sometimes we’ll watch a program on PBS, like the Judy Garland documentary that aired a couple weeks ago. This time it was ER. We’re on season 2, disk 3.

After ER, Mom and I took a spin around the floor.

She said, “Mark . . . who?”

“Mark Greene,” I said. “What about John? What’s his last name?”

“Carter,” she said, proudly.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Mark Greene and John Carter are two of the characters..

“You always liked Carter,” I said.

“Yes, he’s so earnest.”

“He’s very good with the patients. He cares about them,” I said.

“Yes.”

We continued our journey up and down the halls. The activities director was coloring eggs with the residents in the dining room.

“Do you want to color an egg?” I said.

“No, maybe later,” she said. “Mark . . .”

“Greene,” I said. “John . . .”

“Carter,” she said, with pride.

“Right!”

The last time this happened was after we watched the film The Edge with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin when she was still living in her apartment, about four years ago.

She called me twice one day at the office to ask who the British actor in the movie was, and I said, “Anthony Hopkins.”

“Anthony Hopkins, of course. Thank you, dear,” she said, and hung up.

Ten minutes later, she called. “Quick, tell me the name of the actor.”

“Anthony Hopkins. Maybe you should write it down.”

“Good idea,” she said and hung up the phone.

A couple days later, when I was at her apartment, she said, “Who was the actor in that movie?”

“Alec Baldwin.”

“Right, and Anthony Hopkins,” she said.

“I’ll write it down on the napkin under ‘Anthony Hopkins’ so you remember,” I said.

“Okay, that’s a good idea.”

“Do you remember the name of the movie, Mom?”

“Yes, of course. The Edge.”

Then she said, “Who was Dirty Harry?”

“Clint Eastwood.”

“Yes, of course,” she said.

“Do you want me to write it down?” I said.

“Yes, might as well, before I forget that too.”

Now the white napkin read in blue ink:

Anthony Hopkins

Alec Baldwin

Clint Eastwood

I guess I should have written “Mark Greene” and “John Carter” on a piece of paper for Mom so she can remember those names too. When I call her tonight, I’ll see if she does.

When I was ready to leave, Mom waited at the elevator with me.  One of the aides had to buzz me out. This is a locked ward, so you can’t board the elevator without the assistance of a staff member. I kissed Mom on the forehead.

“Mark Greene,” she said, scrunching up her face, as if it took all her might.

“Yes, and John Carter.”

“I’ll see you soon, Mom. Happy Easter.”

“Thank you for everything,” she said.

I smiled and took her in once more, the elevator door sliding until her face was no longer in view.

8 thoughts on “Who Was Dirty Harry?

  1. You write with such simplicity, and it carries such emotional power. You have such a gift. The repetition carries so much love, so much caring, so much humanity. You are one of my very favorite authors, and you never fail to get me where I live.

    Liked by 1 person

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