The Last Metro Stop

At the end of June, Lyn and Mom came for a week's visit. They arrived the day after Lyn was seen by her primary care physician and the word "dementia" was first uttered. We decided to try and keep our week as close to their normal visit as possible. This means that we try to have an activity scheduled for each day.

Towards the end of the week, we had scheduled a trip into the National Zoo in DC. We always enjoy the various exhibits and it was our first time to see the Asia Trail which had opened since our last visit. We metro in, walk around the zoo and metro out. Other than my children being crabby, the day was going pretty well until we got to the Woodley Park Metro stop to head home.

I noticed a long line of people waiting for the elevators at one end of the block. So, we continued on down to the main entrance where we have always taken the escalators down. If you're not familiar with the Woodley Park Metro station's escalators, let me explain a little about it. There are two escalators to get you in or out of the station. If you're going in from the street, you take a normal length of escalator down to a landing and then get on an extremely long escalator that takes you down to the metro level. According to Trip Advisor, the metro level at this station is 140' below ground. The longer of the two escalators is 204' long and set at a 30-degree angle.

Here's an image of the long Woodley Park Metro Station escalator in question. This image was taken by photojournalist John Schreiber. Mr. Schreiber has kindly given permission for me to use his image which I found on his blog. Check out his amazing work. It is well worth the detour.

On this day, we got to the first escalator, the normal length one and found it was not working. We marched down the stairs without incident. When we got to the landing, we realized the second, longer escalator was also not working. We should have stopped and returned to the street. We should have gone back up the block to the elevator and waited in line. We didn't. We made a very big mistake.

I took ahold of each of my children and started maneuvering them down the 342 steps in front of us knowing that Mom had Lyn. Because of the disorienting scale of the path we were on, my children and I focused on our feet and just kept putting one foot in front of the next. We were early enough in the afternoon that we were not in the press of the afternoon commute. A part of me realized that Mom and Lyn had fallen behind but I didn't stop. Even then, my little trio was passed by the more experienced Metro patrons. Within a few minutes, we were at the bottom and looked back up to see were Lyn and Mom were in their trek down.

From my perspective at the bottom of the stairs, I realized they were about 1/3 of the way down. Mom was in front and Lyn was clutching her shoulders. I could tell Lyn was sobbing and Mom was talking to her with each step. Later, Mom described to me the events that I missed.

Mom and Lyn started down the escalator right behind my children and me. Lyn took the lead. When they were about 1/4 of the way down, Lyn had a full panic attack. She started crying and couldn't take another step. She stood there shaking and clutching the railing. Mom came around to stand in front of her, all the while, talking to calm her. A regular Metro rider hustled past and then turned around about 5 steps lower and asked "Ma'am, do you need some help with her?" Mom thanked her and declined the offer.

Slowly, they crept down the escalator. With each step, Mom had to tell her that she could do it. She needed reassurance down the rest of the way. Mom kept up a constant stream of encouragement. Lyn collapsed against Mom when they got to the lower landing. We all tried to assure Lyn that she was brave, she did a good job and that it was over.

Lyn was exhausted. Once seated on the train, she retreated within herself. When we arrived at my home, she shakily climbed the stairs to the bedroom and slept for a couple of hours. It was as if a light had gone out in her and it took 2 days to start to flicker back on. We noticed that for the rest of the visit, she struggled to come down the stairs in my home.

We don't know if Lyn will ever return to my home. We do know that this trip included Lyn's last Metro stop.


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