Walking away is the best I can do as you cry yourself to sleep at 4:42pm. For all you know it’s morning, as you have the last few months at this time. You are confused, but you don’t know why, you are incorrigible, nothing will help the situation, thus is the reason I must step out of sight.
What you don’t know, is that I quit taking care of you. Stepping away is the only way I can control the tears that well up in me every time dementia rears its ugly head. I don’t know how to console you anymore. My hugs are empty, not only to me, but to you too. I want to be released from this role, and you want your boys to keep you company as you slowly forget who you are.
To you, I am just a body that feeds you and lends a hand to do what you no longer can.
The aid is here today, it’s Tuesday and I get four hours of me time. I don’t want to leave home, so I head to the basement to paint. Immediately I see a reflection, a light glare that shouldn’t be in the space, a pool of water hugging the inner wall that separates my area from the workshop. Ugh, here we go again.
I head into the bathroom, knowing exactly the spot where it sprouted from to find standing water on the floor and about an inch around the hot water heater. I am barefoot on the waterproof tiled wood, water squishing between the planks. I can’t help but wonder what kind of mold will be growing there in the years to come and the headache of having to redo the bathroom again.
I should be wearing my muck mucks and gloves, but instead I reach for the rag I put near the floor drain; it’s soaked with clear sewer water. I could clean this up with the mop, but what’s the use, it’s a hassle to use and wring by hand. So I grab the small yellow bucket near the 1800s wood singer sewing machine, and start the clean up process, wiping and wringing bucket after bucket of water, then watering the weeds over our property wall just beyond one of the flower beds. I move methodically from the bathroom to the hall, inching my way, on hands and knees to the cement wall, where the light reflection glare first caught my eye, before texting my mom about the situation.
The process of soak and wring of the rag keeps my mind off you. You are oblivious of what’s happening down here, entertained by putting a puzzle together with the aid. I’m in my own mind wondering if this will ever be fixed.
My dad arrives along with the repair man, just in time for me to explain today’s mishap with the sewer before I step outside into the breeze, chocolate almonds in hand, losing myself in my new book, that I almost forget my existence here on the red painted steps in the backyard, until I check the time, realizing I have little time left to be in my own world.
I hear the clanking of the snake in our sewer pipe pushing deeper into the earth, eventually stopping and witness the need to put a camera down there to confirm later that nothing ever was. Only a good load of laundry will test the situation.
“How many days do I want for respite?” my mom texts me.
I kind of feel like Goldilocks, I don’t want to ask for too much or too little; what’s the perfect amount of days that I need at the house my myself? I don’t know. “Four days?” I respond.
“At least a week,” she replies.
“Then a week,” I answer, returning to my book, plucking myself from my emotional reality into fiction. But, my heart is broke. I am distracted by my mothers question. I need the respite, but I’ve never thought of you leaving all that you once knew so I could find solace in the place I’ve called home these last three years, your house.
I am flooded by thoughts that no one can answer. What happens if your going away to unfamiliar territory kills you? What happens when you die of a broken heart, your demented mind wondering why others would leave you in a place other than your home. Or perhaps you wouldn’t even think, all you know is that you are somewhere strange and you don’t like it one bit. I can see you raising hell, crying all the time, wondering where “your people” are, but never really knowing. You will call out to your mom, your sons, the people you once knew and get a stranger at your door.
Or, you won’t. You will sit comatose, like those I’ve seen in a nursing home recently. They look so frail, staring out a window or at the television in a space about the size of a cell block. Beyond their eye color, emptiness. Will that happen to you too?
Nothing will be normal, like it ever was in the first place. This new normal of your sadness and depression, that’s your role and it’s contagious here. I too find myself depressed, sad, even bitter about the whole situation. But being away from all that I’ve become accustomed to will the opportunity change me? Will I crave freedom, life that was meant to be lived, or will I miss you terribly, like a parent who misses a child?
So here I sit, everyone has gone home. It’s just you and me listening to music from the early 1920s, and opportunity knocking on my door, what will I do? How quick will I respond? Will I ignore what this has been leading up to all this time, finally getting my desperate plea for respite, only to realize how much it’s going to hurt you?
I see you in the corner of my vision you nod off for bit, waking in a rush to ask, “Did Scotty get to bed?”
I tell you that you were dreaming and watch you gaze at your bed like you can’t wait to get in it.
“I guess I should go to bed,” you say to me.
“It’s 4:30pm in the afternoon,” I reply.
“Oh, I thought it was midnight,” you say so innocently.
I reiterate something my mother had been tell you these last few months. “When it’s light out side, we are awake. When it’s dark outside, we sleep.”
You nod your head as though you understand, then tip your chin forward and fall back into slumber. In that moment it becomes more apparent to me now than ever before. I have a love hate relationship with the concept of death. I want you to move on to a place where you are no longer miserable, sad, in physical pain, and depressed, but I also want you to live, because I will miss you when you are gone.