I am delighted to announce another first for Our Stories Today; an essay by a guest contributor. Renée Levine, age 94, is the mother of Sally Laventure who was recently spotlighted here in our Conversations column. Shortly after I ran the story of her daughter, she wrote asking if I would be interested in her story, The Staircase. I said, yes.

I met Liam on the staircase the other day.  He ran while I clutched the railing and worried about getting my next foot down the next stair.  We smiled briefly at one another.

I knew that he was on the way to the barbershop to get his hair cut and he was excited because he could sit in a jeep while the barber cut his hair.

As it happened, I was returning from my hairdresser who had worked hard under my anxious plea to hide the slowly emerging bald spots.

Liam is just five years old.   I had gone to his birthday party a few weeks ago, and he had run from one end to the other of a large playing field with a gang of his contemporaries, laughing and talking, throwing a ball, excited and happy.

I have just had my 94th birthday and had sat throughout the party with his grandparents and several of my acquaintances pleasantly chatting, reminiscing, enjoying the party.

The thing about the staircase is that we met in a symbolic way as well as in a physical way.  He was going up while I am definitely going down but for a brief few seconds we met as we were, both of us on our own, each of us on a separate  path diverging just at this brief moment.

His hair is growing and needs control; mine is getting thin and needs protection. As Liam discovers new words every day, so I lose those words as I struggle to find them in my not so efficient memory.  I forget; he increases his vocabulary. I need his mother’s hand as I hesitate in my walk; he lets go of her other hand as he decides on his own path. He is fully toilet trained.  I am anxiously still trained.

But I fear what is coming.

He started out where I am now going. The crying baby looking for his mother’s breast snuggling into the comfort of her arms on his way to independence.

The old woman looking for security, wanting those reassuring arms on her way to oblivion.

We met, that other day halfway up for him, halfway down for me on the same staircase.


The author used these words to describe herself: Renée Levine,  is an old woman and an experienced senior living expert.

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