Ida is lying in bed, on her back, eyes closed. Would she like to feel the sunshine? Are the window shades drawn because the bright light was bothering her? She is blind and very hard of hearing. She sometimes wears hearing aids but not in bed. I observe one of her arms, naked on top of the blue blanket; skinny but not that skinny. Her shoulder is naked too. The night gown has slid. Ida used to make plans to move back to her apartment. She used to swear a lot, impatient, frustrated by her dependence. She wanted a hamburger; she wanted cough drops, a cup of coffee, a glass of milk, a pillow, assistance to put her fallen hearing aid back; nothing extravagant. She was fighting for herself and trying to be heard through darkness and pain. This was until a few months ago. Now kidney failure is eating up her energy.
Her pale face, ivory eyelids, and white curly hair contrast with her furry black eyebrows. Is she asleep? I put my hand lightly over hers. She moves her fingers guiding me until we are in a proper hand hold. I am happy of her response. I drag my chair closer to the bed to be more comfortable. After a few minutes of our silent contact, Ida pulls her other hand from under the sheet and raises it slowly towards her face. She inserts her pinkie into one nostril, exploring the cavity. Well, this is an activity. Then, she gently moves the hand I was holding to go explore the other nostril. Shall I be disgusted? Probably not; I like that she is doing something. How conscious is it, how irrepressible? One day would I be searching my nose in oblivion in front of a visitor?
Ida died the following week. I keep this anecdote as a symbol of her strength. She expressed her needs and managed to remain a free spirit despite her multiple limitations.