An elderly woman was sitting quietly at a small table. Her thinning, snow-white hair was perfectly coiffed, her face was tastefully made up, and her pantsuit had been meticulously pieced together. Her hands shook ever so slightly as she methodically broke off pieces from a hefty glazed donut and chewed carefully. As I sat myself in the seat opposite her, she lifted her eyes to meet mine, our faces breaking out in mutual smiles. “Hello Hether,” she greeted me, only it sounded more like “Hello Hayter.” I grinned. I loved this precious woman.
I only knew her for about a year. She would come to the conversation classes at the English school at which I worked in Israel. She often arrived early or stayed after class to socialize in English with the teachers or other students. I knew all about her daily schedule at the assisted living home where she lived, and we had many lengthy discussions about her impressive exercise routine. She spoke to me often about her health, and how hard she worked to keep her mind and body in shape.
I no longer remember her name, but I do remember her gentle nature and the musky scent of her perfume. I remember her gravelly voice, the brightness of her red lipstick, the single gold chain clasped around her wrist, and her arthritic, sun spotted hands. Most of all, I remember her graceful poise, and the gratitude she expressed for each day she was alive. And the donut conversation. That I will never, ever forget, for as long as I live.
“Do you know why I am eating this donut today?” she asked. I had no idea. “My doctor tells me this is the only day I can eat a donut.” She inhaled deeply and pushed her sleeve up revealing a row of numbers tattooed on her arm. She spoke slowly. “When my sister and I were in the camps, we were so hungry. We were starving. There was no food for us anywhere. I will never forget that feeling. So on this day, every year, I eat a donut. Because I can. To remember.”
We both sat in silence as she finished her donut.