Today we visited a sick (and we think, dying) woman who lives just up the hill from us. Four of us walked up the patchy woods of the hill; my niece Carmen, myself, mother-in-law Irene, and nephew Alejandro, who helped Irene up the steeper slopes. We brought over some juice boxes, as someone suggested she liked them. (Actually, whenever someone is sick or ailing here, it seems people bring juice; after my father-in-law broke his leg nearly everyone who came by brought juice cans or boxes.) We were greeted at the woman’s home by her husband, who exited a hammock at our arrival. He showed us in, and retrieved seats from a stack for us, and explained how his wife is now “out of it,” talking at times, but only thoughts out loud, in a dreamlike state, never completely awake or asleep. While we were there, she would alternate between snoring and moaning, while lying in bed, eyes closed. Irene and her husband chatted together, whilst the rest of us sat by quietly.
The house is a humble country home, made of adobe. Inside the house the walls are stark, the raw brick never having been covered with a smooth mud or plaster finish, showing the sun-dried earth and organic materials they were made from. Our chairs sat on a dirt floor, pockmarked and lumpy, but carefully swept clean.
An adult son was living with them, sharing the large, one room home. It is still common to see full families with up to several people living in one large room, beds arranged smartly and according to the space, as this was how houses were built up until a few decades ago. Thanks to the warm weather, washing and cooking areas are set up outside, with or without a roof engineered over them. And the outhouse (“servicio”) is of course, also outside, so the one large room is used almost exclusively for sleeping.
Irene and the woman’s husband reminisced about old times in the neighborhood. Twenty minutes or so later, we said our goodbyes, wished them well, and walked back home down the hill.