I miss Alba. I don’t know why, but I do. She was the most challenging patient I’ve ever had. I dreaded seeing her in the office–and yet, somehow, she won me over.
Alba was fifty-nine, with short, silver hair, a deep, gravelly voice from decades of smoking, and an attitude. She had lung disease, heart disease, depression, arthritis and HIV. She also had a complicated social situation. She’d used cocaine and heroin until her husband had died of HIV. She’d then moved in with her elderly mother and cared for her until her mother died of a stroke. Now Alba lived in a shelter right around the corner from where her father had been shot years before.
The biggest joy in Alba’s life was her granddaughter; but her estranged daughter wasn’t letting Alba see her.
Alba frequently missed appointments or, just as often, walked in without notice, demanding to be seen. She was always in crisis–and she generally took out her frustrations on me.