It is an early, chilly Tuesday morning in the middle of England. We rush into a little coffee shop. It is in an old village. Quaint. It is cosy inside the shop, wicker chairs and rickety tables, bright couches with cushions. We settle down and my family walk over to the counter to order espressos and crossaints. I take off my leopard print fluffy coat and sink into the leather couch.
A man and woman – in their late eighties? early nineties? – shuffle towards one of the tables. The gentleman guides the woman, I’m sure it is his wife, into an old chair. He pulls the chair out, gently takes off her coat, and almost delicately places her in the chair. She is tiny, bird-like, and nearly disappears. She is wearing a beautiful green scarf, which her husband gently unwinds from her neck revealing a stunning pearl necklace. I understand he probably dressed her this morning. How she would have wanted to be dressed. She thumps the table, yells at the little girl near her to shut up. He strokes her forehead.
He shuffles to the chair opposite and places her scarf in a worn plastic bag, then removes two off-white napkins. One he gently puts on his wife’s lap, the other on her chest. She mumbles incoherently and he replies calmly, their wrinkly hands intertwined firmly on her lap.
The waitress brings two cups of tea and two scones over. She smiles, uses their names. I can tell this is a daily outing. He puts two sugars in her tea, and then she puts salt in his. He smiles, pushes his cup away a little. She looks at him lovingly. ‘Drink up, love,’ he encourages her. She puts her delicate hands around her cup and manages a few sips with only a minor spill. He wipes her face and she tries to cut up his scone with a teaspoon. He helps her. With the teaspoon.
I have never felt so warm inside. I have never seen such lifelong unconditional love and companionship that thrives despite dementia and old age. These beautiful souls have just shown me true humanity.
I was blessed to walk into this little village coffee shop today.