"In my day they put people like you in a home. Far away." She was old. Really old. She'd shrunk to the point that it looked like her shoulders were resting right atop her hips. I'd stopped it look at baby clothes in the supermarket while Joe was getting tin foil. I refuse to shop for tin foil. That's a Joe job. So I took my leave of him and went to look for a cute holiday outfit for Ruby who I'm going to see this long weekend.
She came up next to me and was only a little taller than me in my chair. I don't know if she was really looking at clothes - if she was it would have been for her great-great-great-great-grand-daughter. Suddenly she was telling me that in her day I would have been put away somewhere. I was nonplussed.
"Pardon me?" I said politely as I picked up a piece of clothing that could only be described as 'darling'.
"Yes, in my day they put wheelchair people in big homes. Took care of 'em there."
I didn't want this conversation but I just knew that she had come to me to just talk. "Well, we don't do that anymore."
"You work? Got a job?"
I told her that I did. I thought I'd hit her with being a sex therapist for sex offenders- but decided that though she was annoying she wasn't ripe for killing. So I just admitted to being employed.
"Yes, I guess." Brief, to the point and polite. I was being good.
"My sister's boy was put away. He wasn't in a wheelchair like you, he was just a bit funny. They said it was best for him. Near broke her heart but she wanted to do good by him. She was never the same after."
"What about him, how did he do?" I asked.
She looked shocked. Like her care had only been for what her sister went through. Like he'd been a problem not a person. Like he was gone and truly forgotten. "I have to say I don't know. They didn't encourage visitors. We all just lost touch with him."
"They made a lot of mistakes back then."
"I guess." She seemed suddenly tired. As if the thought of the boy put away had weighed her down. Like his coming to life had taken the life out of her.
"What do you think of this?" I said holding up a little girl summer dress that I thought was cute and a deft way out of the conversation.
"I don't know," she said not paying any attention to the clothes, "why we let him go."
She turned and walked away from me. Not even a goodbye.
I know she was thinking of the boy lost. Her nephew.
I wonder how he is.
I wonder how she'll be.
I wonder why we did what we did.