Saturday, September 14, 2013


  When I got to CVS my prescription wasn't ready.  The pharmacist said it would just take a few minutes, and for once I had nowhere I had to be immediately, so I sat down to wait.  There was an elderly couple at one end of the row of seats, filling out paperwork, so I sat at the other end.  They were being kind of loud, and I really didn't want to hear their conversation but there was no way to avoid it. 
     "What am I supposed to do?," she asked her husband.
     "Sign your name," he said. "Marilyn Richter." [I've changed the names, of course.]
     Goddamn these old men, I thought, being so condescending to their wives.  Does he think she doesn't know her own name?
     "Marilyn Richter?" she asked wonderingly.
     "Yes. That's your name. You have to sign it."
     "Right here."  Oh, God.  I couldn't help but look over at them, and that's when I saw that he had a cochlear implant.  That could account for the loud voices. 
     She wrote, and then showed him the papers. "Is this right?"
     "Well, yes, you've written Marilyn.  Now you have to write Richter."
     "Here.  Right after Marilyn."
     She went back to work, and showed him the result.  "You're not supposed to print it," he said.  "You're supposed to sign it, like you're signing your name."
     "I don't understand."
     He leafed through the papers.  "You see how you signed your name here, in cursive?  That's what it's supposed to look like.  Not printing, like you did there.  Here, I'm crossing out where you printed so you can write it in cursive."
     Her forehead wrinkled.  "What's the difference?"
     He sighed in exasperation - not with her, but with himself.  "I don't know how to explain it," he said, as if thinking aloud, but then he got an idea.  "You see here how all these letters are connected?  That's what it's supposed to look like.  Write Richter so it looks like this."
     "Okay," she said sweetly, and went back to work.
     Just when it seemed they were finally done, the pharmacist came out with more papers for them.  Evidently they were there to get flu shots.  "You have to sign these too," the pharmacist told the husband, "so that your insurance will pay.  If you don't sign, they won't pay."
     Mr. Richter sighed gently, and the whole process resumed.   It went more smoothly this time, and after he finally handed everything back to the pharmacist, he sat down again, visibly relieved.  His voice took on a jocular tone.  "If I'd have known how complicated this was all going to be," he said to his wife, "I would have shot myself."
     She laughed, in full possession of the joke.  "You would have shot me," she bantered back.  And then they laughed comfortably together, like the two people they once used to be.

(from Google images - not the Richters)


  1. Susan, thank you so much for posting such a beautiful anecdote! This made me cry. How beautiful their love didn't age with age :D

  2. Thanks, Donna. What I found so moving was that they not only had to deal with old age, which is hard enough, but with the wife's dementia on top of that, and yet they still found the grace within themselves to hold onto what bound them together in the first place. Felt to me like a special kind of courage.