Writing 101 – Day 6: A Character Building Experience

The first time I met her she was in mourning. Her husband was in the process of dying from cancer and had only days left to live. My friend, Angel, took me with her to Judy’s house to offer her our support and let her know we are there for her.

Less than a week later, she was a widow.

After many years of marriage and living with a husband that took care of her and all the finances, she was completely lost in the world of independence. Fortunately for Judy, she lives in a home close to her daughter and son-in-law’s and they watch out for her safety.

Her small frame and platinum-silver hair stand out, along with her bright green eyes and warm, beautiful smile.

Judy is in her seventies and in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Anyone that has been around a person with this debilitating disease knows that it takes the patience of a saint to be around them for any length of time.

When I ask her her age, she answers,”I think I am in my forties, but I forget. I’m such an airhead!”

Our friendship has developed during this past year and she and I have become fast friends. She is thrilled over our friendship and is always calling me her, “bestest friend in the world.” However, I assure you, it is I that have found a friendship treasure.

We go out to lunch together, to dinners together and shopping together. She tells me frequently how much she thoroughly enjoys our outings. I tell her how much I enjoy her warm and caring friendship. However, it is at times very trying because she often forgets from one moment to the next, repeats herself often, and continually asks the same questions.

She often tells me stories (which I have probably heard a hundred times) and then forgets parts as she is telling it (again). I will laugh and say, “Judy, I believe I know your story better than you!” And she laughs.

Many times she is late for our lunch date. Many times she has to call at the last minute to cancel because she is feeling dizzy. And, many times she has lost her phone and it concerns me when I cannot get a hold of her.

I know without a doubt that her favorite colors are shades of turquoise blue and different shades of pink. I know this because I took her shopping for some new tennis shoes and she “had” to get them in blue, telling me and the salesman several times it was her favorite color. The next day, she had me take her back to get a pair in pink, (by the way, again, her favorite color).

I am describing a terrible and heartbreaking disease as much as I am describing my beautiful friend.

There are some days I feel like I am friends with a three year old, and other days that I feel I am friends with an adult who has slight memory problems. Sadly, the three year old is coming out more often these days and I know our friendship is becoming more dear because it is becoming shorter.

One of these days she will not know me anymore. She will have forgotten about our special outings and about our sweet friendship. On that day I will have to let her go to where ever it is that her mind has taken her, be grateful for the small amount of time we had together and cherish our friendship, no matter how brief it was.

I have found, through Judy, that we find ourselves more through the imperfections of others than through their perfections. Accepting those imperfections encourage us to see and accept our own, giving us the remarkable opportunity to love and accept each other anyway.






29 thoughts on “Writing 101 – Day 6: A Character Building Experience

  1. Touching. Well done. The disease is nasty and your honesty makes this piece stronger. Repeating the pink line was a clever move…don’t feel a need to excuse yourself in the following paragraph. Let the reader figure out that it’s OK for you to use humor and still honor Judy…which, clearly, you do.

  2. This was so beautiful and well written! I used to work with old people with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other challenging conditions, so I can imagine perfectly well what you described. As said before by others, the way you used the humour was brilliant and well placed.

  3. Lovely sketch of a dear person! I do think though, honestly, the assignment wants us to show rather than tell so maybe a great deal more of Judy needs to come through. Mannerisms, speech, actions that show her dementia, but also show just what it was that built your relationship. I actually used dialog in mine to try to convey some of the inner workings of my character.
    This was a challenging assignment to say the least as I felt that to say what I wanted, to really show my character as a person and not tell the reader what sort of person he was, I would be constructing a book. Being concise and developing a real picture of a person without simply telling about them is tough!

  4. Really cute and a lovely description of your friend. I definitely understand how frustrating it can be rehearing the same conversation over and over and having your friend forget what she is saying. My Baba is like this but for different reasons than Alzheimers. You are a very good friend to put up with this and I believe it’s true that you can gain so much from a person even though they maybe forgetful and have a memory that is going.

  5. …so much love in this piece! Really well done. You had a good combination of describing her appearance and also her personality and preferences. I could also feel how this terrible disease is “robbing” her of herself – so sad. I can only think of one possible and very small addition: You met Judy at a very sad time, what was it about her that made you initiate and continue a friendship with her?
    This is the type of writing that tells as much about you as it does her, you ARE a “bestest” friend!

    • I think that is a very valid question and would probably enhance this piece of writing if it were something truly outstanding, but the main reason is because she is such a sweet loving person and I thought I made that clear.

  6. I love this piece. I can imagine you two together, laughing, shopping, and watching how special you two are. Beautiful friendship is a treasure. Enjoy every minute. I wish that Judy will never forget you.

  7. I loved this piece. You definitely depicted Judy very well, especially with the things you both like to do together and her favorite colors. Nice work!

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