( Intermediate Level )
June, at 62 years old, found herself forgetting things. Some days were better than others. She explained to her doctor, “It is like I am looking out a window with raindrops obscuring my vision. Sometimes, I am able to make out what is beyond the raindrops. Some days, I remember everything, and somedays I find it difficult to remember words.”
He had told her, “This may be the early sign of dementia and we will keep an eye on this for now. If you feel the situation is getting worse we can start you on medicine to reduce the symptoms. You must understand, June, there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s.“
Those words he spoke echoed in her mind on the way home. She had decided not to tell her husband, Stan, or her daughter, Alice. She was afraid they would treat her as if she was sickly and frail. This she couldn’t accept.
June had always been fiercely independent and this is why Stan had fallen in love with her. They had met in college and he was smitten by her incredible mind. They were usually on opposing sides in debate class. She always had strong opinions and a way of being so convincing. She always won the debates.
In the next few months, since she heard those terrible words from her doctor, repeat in her mind, June decided to read as much as she could regarding Alzheimer’s or dementia. One thing, most articles stated, was to keep your mind as active as possible.
Reading, crossword puzzles, and writing were helpful. Puzzles never interested her but reading she loved to do. She hadn’t read in quite a while. Both she and Stan had an active lifestyle. Going for walks, going to museums, and even going on short getaways just to fish.
She knew she wanted to keep up this active lifestyle with Stan as long as she could. He was her everything as she was his. After thirty – two years of marriage, you never saw one without the other.
After thinking about everything she read and what her doctor had told her she had decided to start writing in a journal. Maybe in the future, she would have to utilize it to remember who she is.
She had stopped at a store, one day when she was out with Stan. She found a lovely writing pad that was bound with lavender fabric. It was decorated with lace and small white and pink silk flowers. Inside were plenty of pages to write. She smiled and thought this was perfect to write down her memories before they faded away into darkness.
It had taken her several days to decide what she wanted to write inside. Were the written words going to be for her eyes only or did she want to write to her husband and her daughter? She decided on the latter.
She would take the advantage to begin writing in her new journal in the evenings while Stan and her would watch television together. He would usually fall asleep on the sofa. Then she could put her private thoughts into words.
She titled her journal Memories Fade and dedicated it to her husband and daughter. She shared with them when she was told by her doctor that she was showing early signs of dementia and why she wanted to hide this from them.
She began to write,” I wanted to write my thoughts to both of you before it was too late. Too late to express the love I have for you. Too late to let you know how proud, I am, Stan, to be your wife, and too late to tell you, Alice, how much admiration I have for you. You remind me of myself when I was younger. Strong and determined. I am the luckiest woman to have you, both, in my life.”
“The day I was told by the doctor I was showing signs of early dementia I chose to keep this to myself. I didn’t want you to treat me differently. I wanted to be normal. As normal as I was before I had walked into the doctor’s office thirty minutes earlier”
“I know, sometime in the future, I will not be able to hide this disease from you but that will be another bridge to cross when it happens. Until then, I will enjoy you every day and every moment and every second as long as I can remember who you are.”
June would always tuck her journal into the top drawer of the desk towards the back in hopes no one would find it. Each night she would write a little then tuck it away safely until the next time.
As time passed her writing became less frequent. Some evenings she just stared at the television, as her husband snored on the sofa. Her forgetfulness was more evident now. Stan would ask her about it and she would shrug it off as she was having an off day.
One afternoon, Alice had called and her dad told her about his concern with her mom. “She has not been herself lately. She is forgetting things. She had put on the tea kettle on the stove to make us tea and she forgot about it.”
“ I was outside working in the garden and heard the whistle of the tea kettle. I waited a few moments but the whistling continued. I walked inside to see your mom sitting in her favorite chair watching the television that was not even on.” His voice was trembling now as he continued.
“She didn’t hear the whistle of the tea kettle and I asked her if she heard the kettle. She blankly looked at me then went back to watching the television.“
“ I think something serious is wrong with your mom. This is so unlike her. She has been a little forgetful lately but she always told me she was having a bad day.”
Alice was shaken by this news. She told her dad she was unable to get away from work for another week or two but she would come as soon as she was free. In the meantime, she instructed him to call the doctor and get an appointment as soon as he could for her.
Stan had called the doctors and made an appointment for the following week. This was the earliest opening the doctor’s office had. He called his daughter back, that evening, to tell her he made an appointment for a week from Thursday.
Alice replied, “Great. I will be in on Wednesday. After I talked with you I talked to my boss and he said to tie up loose ends here and go be with you and mom. I can take a few days off then I can work online for as long as I need to stay with you.”
Stan was relieved Alice was coming. She was better at getting answers. She had a wonderful relationship with her mom. If June was to tell anyone anything she would tell Alice.
Wednesday evening arrived and Alice didn’t want her dad to pick her up from the airport. Plus it would be a little late and dad wasn’t the best when it came to night driving. She took a taxi, instead.
On her ride from the airport, Alice thought it seemed as if she was gone for a long time but she actually had visited mom and dad last year about this time. It is difficult for her to get away during the holiday season. She usually had many year – end reports to work on.
Instead, they always celebrated Christmas in July. She smiled when she thought of this. Her mom had always felt she was special. She and Stan would celebrate the holiday, again, when it was the actual holiday. She would say,” I am so lucky! I get twice as many presents this way!“
Even though Alice had an apartment in the city, her parent’s home was considered her home. She would say, “I am coming home, mom. See you soon!“, when she had vacation time.
Alice arrived and was greeted by her dad at the door. He stood blocking the door for a moment to prepare her for what she was to see. “You need to prepare yourself when you see mom. She may or may not remember you. I told her you were coming and she kept asking who? Who’s coming?”
Stan stepped out of the way and Alice entered saying, “Mom, I am home!” She walked around the corner and into the living room. Any other time June would rush to give her a big hug and smother her with kisses but this time she didn’t.
Instead, Alice saw her mom staring at the television. She didn’t even look up when she heard her voice. Alice took a quick look at her dad and walked over to her mom.
She knelt down in front of her mom. “Mom, It’s Alice. I am home.” Still no reaction. Alice looked into her mom’s eyes and saw emptiness. She didn’t see the twinkle that mom used to have in her eyes.
As the evening progressed Alice tried so hard to get her mom to respond. She even tried to incite an argument. She knew her mom was at her best when there was a debate in the air. Still nothing.
The evening grew tired and the three would have an early doctor’s appointment the next day. Alice offered to help mom get ready for bed. She helped her mom to the bedroom and placed a night gown on the bed.
Her mom changed into her nightgown and sat on the end of the bed. She looked up at her daughter and said, “ I remember. I remember who you are. I remember your name. It’s Alice. I know I have something special for you. I just have to think where I put it.“
The tears began to well up in Alice’s eyes. All night she fought to have her mom answer. her. To have the mom she left only one year ago. To have the mom who would sheepishly give her opinion on a topic, especially boyfriends, without coming out and saying it.
As she tucked her mom into bed and told her she loved her, June grabbed her hand and said the word, “desk” to her. Then she rolled over and pulled the covers over her shoulder.
Alice stood for a moment and watched her mom. What had she meant by desk? She walked quietly out to the living room where her dad was. He had fallen asleep on the sofa.
She sat in mom’s favorite chair. The night was overwhelming for her. When her dad had said, “Something wasn’t quite right with mom,” she hadn’t expected this.
She replayed the evening in her head over and over again. Then her thoughts drifted to their vacations and the July holidays of the past. Then she remembered the word desk, again. What had her mom meant by this?
She put a blanket over her dad. She didn’t want to wake him. She then grabbed her suitcase and headed to her old bedroom. She, too, needed to get some sleep before the doctor’s appointment.
As she clicked on the light, that word her mom spoke entered her mind, again. “Desk“. Was her mom trying to tell her to look for something on or in her desk? She turned around, turned off the bedroom light, and headed to her mom’s desk.
She rifled through everything on the desk and couldn’t find anything. She opened each drawer and flipped its contents onto the floor. Not seeing anything that stood out she repeated this with every drawer.
In the last drawer, she finally found what she thought her mom wanted her to see. It was a writing pad that was bound with lavender fabric. It was decorated with lace and small white and pink silk flowers. She sat on the floor and began to read.
The first page had the words “Memories Fade“, and below this was a dedication to her and dad.” I wanted to write my thoughts to both of you before it was too late. Too late to express the love I have for you……”
As Alice turned each page and read, she could feel her mom’s struggle with her memory. As the journal continued her spelling and thoughts were not as clear. She saw this disease had taken a small chunk of her mom each day. Page by page.
She woke up the next morning with the contents of each drawer beside her. She had fallen asleep reading her mom’s journal.
She sat up to see her dad sitting in mom’s chair with the journal bound with lavender fabric and decorated with lace with small white and pink silk flowers in his hands. A tear rolled down his cheek.
Now everything made sense to him but at the same time, it didn’t. “How could this happen to my June, my wife, my life and, she does not want to tell me?”, he thought.
Written by: Angel
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obscuring – verb: keep from being seen
dementia – noun: general term for the impaired ability to remember or think
Alzheimer – noun: type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior
sickly – adjective: poor health
fiercely – adverb: aggressive manner
smitten – verb: attracted to someone
debate class – noun: a discussion group involving opposing viewpoints
lifestyle – noun: the way in which a person lives
getaways – noun , plural: a vacation
utilize – verb: make practical and effective
advantage – noun: favorable position
admiration – noun: respect or approval
a bridge to cross – idiom: not worry about a future problem
forgetfulness – noun: loss of memory
evident – adjective: obvious
blankly – adverb: lack of interest or engagement
loose ends – noun, plural: a detail that is not yet settled
smother – verb: a lot of something
emptiness – uncountable noun: an unhappy or frightening feeling
twinkle – noun: a sparkle in a person’s eyes
incite – verb: encourage or stir up
grew tired – verb / urban dictionary: started to get tired
well up – verb: strong emotions
sheepishly – adverb: embarrassed manner
overwhelming – adjective: strong in emotions
rifled – adjective: to search through something quickly and carelessly
struggle – verb: forceful effort
What do you know about this disease?
Have you had anyone is your family who had suffered with dementia?