I don’t remember street names. Buildings show me where to turn, but some are getting blurry. Sometimes I get lost, but I don’t tell my wife. I can’t put a face to the names of most family and friends…I say I do, but I can’t. When will I forget my sisters? My grandchildren? My past is slipping away. It would be better to end this slow torture, this march to…. At some point I won’t feel this shame because I won’t know who I am. Will I forget God too?
I can’t do most things without my wife. I am a…. It’s getting worse. I can’t shut off the noise in my head. She doesn’t deserve this. Angela gives me medication, takes me to doctors…. She’s a saint.
I wake up in the middle of a nightmare, sweating. In the dream, I didn’t know my wife. Did I ever take the time to know her? Voice and how she looks, yeah, but who is she *really*?
I sleep late after tossing and turning all night. I lie stiff as a board knowing my past is melting away and my future is…
I go for coffee. Jay. Bald. White mustache. I know his face but not stories about us. I say I do, but I don’t. I forgot the name of the square white thing I use to wipe my mouth. I pretend to remember his father. I do that a lot. I’m sick of feeling stupid. He yawns. I don’t think he wants to be with me.
My wife is in the kitchen doing dishes. She is fat and has less hair, and it’s turning white. She reminds me about a family picnic. Fear grabs my throat. I’m not going. It’s embarrassing not knowing names. And I can’t find the right words in time to keep up with people.
I look out the window in the living room and see my white car in the driveway. The key’s in my pocket. When will she take it?
I look at the TV. I see a familiar face talking about elections. I can’t have an opinion because there’s only mush underneath. Words have to be…have to come from somewhere. There’s no point listening. I forget a sentence, so the next one doesn’t make sense. I watch the golf channel without sound.
A car is parked in front of the house. My wife says it’s her brother. I forget who he is. I keep my mouth shut.
I saw my cousin get hit by a car when I was ten. Danny crossed the street in front of me. I can still hear the sound of the brakes. He went up in the air and lay in the street. His eyes were open, looking up, and his face looked blue. My wife says I keep bringing it up.
The doorbell rings, and the dog barks. I can’t breathe. I hide in my bedroom.
Sitting on the couch with my lifeless body next to me. I have to drag this sack of shit around all day. I want to end it. But isn’t suicide a mortal sin?
I’d be lost without my wife. But she’s going to put me in a place where an angry orderly will wipe my ass.
My wife gets on my nerves.
I drive around my neighborhood. I park and watch people. She wants me to stop driving. She’s afraid I’ll get lost. Fuck her! My car’s all I got left.
She wants me to die. She can’t stand being around me. I don’t want to be around her either, but I have no choice.
I admire my husband’s courage, faith, and loyalty. He’s losing his memory, yet he gets up every morning. I look out the living room window and watch him sit in his car. He still meets with a sister and childhood friend. He gets agitated, but who wouldn’t?
He’s trapped in a vise between a disappearing past and a terrifying future.
I see him sitting on the edge of his bed. So frail. He seems lost. But he’s not a burden to me. I keep track of it all: medications, medical appointments, updating family…. I’m trying to get his friends to call him more often. Most say they will, but they don’t.
There’s still some quality of life if we can forget what lies ahead. He forgets everything but that, and I can’t control my going there either. We trudge through the miserable muck toward an existential storm on the horizon.
I don’t recognize his voice. He’s bitter, irritable…. Don’t take it out on me. I’m no spring chicken. He’s my husband—better or worse—but it’s all becoming worse. He’s not the man I fell in love with.
He keeps repeating the same childhood horror in excruciating detail.
I can’t always fill in the blanks for him. Sometimes I don’t want to.
He doesn’t deserve such a fate, but neither do I.
How can God allow such suffering? I don’t go to Mass anymore.
Much of my fear is incapacitating depression watching him wither away. At some point, he won’t know who I am. Then, he won’t suffer. But my suffering is endless.
He thinks I’m putting him into a nursing home. I’m not. Not yet anyway. I dread that day. Sometimes I look forward to it. Faulkner was wrong. Sometimes the past is dead. I try to live in memories of dinners and lovemaking and dances and concerts and…. But he can’t share in the memories. Isn’t that what old age should be about? “Shared” memories?
I give her my car keys. There’s nothing left.
He just handed me his keys with moist eyes. He’s blaming me for his loss of independence.
He asked for his handgun. I told him I forgot the combination to the safe.
There are moments I want to open the safe for him.
One of the best. Well written.
Oh, my. How true and sad this is and so very close to home. Thank you for this story.
Both voices are equally strong and authentic. Thank you for sharing this piece.
I don’t always remember street names, either. Now, after reading this, I’m starting to get frightened. A good story, well told, and both voices are strong and distinctive. Thanks for this; good job.
I’m beginning to live this with my husband’s journey into dementia. You’ve captured the confusion and compensating behaviours and conflicting emotions very well.
Two stories, two different worlds. And the force holding them together slowly dissolving. Powerful.