THERE’S A 64- YEAR-OLD WOMAN in a small West Texas town who walks with an unmistakable limp. People where she lives know what happened and do not bring it up. Because there are no jobs in town, the woman commutes 29 miles to Childress, where she helps run a rural health clinic and where her history is not generally known. “Just an old injury,” she says when they inquire about that rolling limp that begins at the right hip and drops her foot with a heavy thud. It makes her a bit self-conscious. But at least she’s otherwise sturdy, and at least she no longer avoids highway overpasses or scrambles away from ledges as she once used to, back when the old injury was not just physical.
A few hundred miles away in an affluent northeast Texas retirement community, another 64-year-old woman dreams of falling. She wakes up shaking and gasping next to her husband, but she’s disoriented, because in the dream she was a teenage girl, as was the girl falling alongside her. She’s always trying to help that other girl in the dream. “Come on,” she begs as she reaches out. Doctors have asked the woman if there’s anything in her past to explain the dreams and the panic attacks that overcome her at unexpected moments. When she brings up that day fifty years ago, the doctors thoughtfully nod.
Farther north, in Fort Smith, Arkansas, a stooped and wiry 73-year-old woman with very bad hearing passes her days with her small dog in an apartment beside a golf course where she used to play daily before her back gave out. She also used to raise pygmy goats, and before that ran a dog-grooming salon. But the majority of her life has been dedicated to