The Day After Mother's Day
The wall. She sits looking at it as if it is a television show. It is cream colored and grainy--like the acne infested face of a pubescent. The texture, lumpy and hard to clean or dust, is a coarse cinder block wall with small craters granular to the touch.
"Why is the wall a crater-faced kid," she says aloud to no one in particular. A frown deepens around her chin--lined with the years of worry, sadness, smiles and joy. Old. She is old.
"Why is the wall a pimply little kid,' she says again deepening her frown as a tear slowly cascades the ravens and valleys of her face and hides in the shawl that appears to support her head below her chin.
It has been years since anyone she knows has visited her. Another tear leaps into the lined face of the woman from her eyelash as she sits staring into the wall wondering where life has gone. All her friends and family seems to have disappeared now that strangers have come into her life. Strangers.
The wall is the only thing that seems to stay the same.
"The wall is a pimply little kid," she resigns as another few tears dance into the lines of her face.
"I miss my pimply grandson," she whispers slightly lowering her head as more tears flow. Freckles is what her grandson really had. She just called them pimples because it made him laugh.
Voices in the distance approaching her forces her to wipe away the evidence of sadness from her face as she puts on a fake smile for the strangers that check on her in her old age.
Since she lost her family, she lives in Sunny Pines Retirement Estates. It was in her plans to go there when Henry, her husband of 65 years, passed away anyway. Losing her family made it easier to be in this place. When Henry died, it was mother's day. Hank, her grandson disappeared that same day. It was the last time she saw her husband or grandson. After Henry and Hank, the family just started dropping like flies.
Some people from the church she used to attend come by to visit almost daily. She hears them approaching. She sits and smiles to be polite. She does not know them. The women's organization at her church puts her on a calendar and visits her by turns. She love's it. She sees that they love it.
"Hey, Sister Oliver. How are you?"
"I'm fine. You?"
"I'm happy to see you. How was your Mother's Day..."
The three women who sit before her have smiles adorning their lovely young faces. Kathryn wonders if those smiles are real or fake like hers. As the women coo and speak to her with loving tones, Kathryn wonders if she will ever be happy again.
It is nice that the sisters come, she reasons within, but will I ever see a face that I recognize again in this life? Is all my family really gone?
The smile leaves her face for a split second. All three women notice and raise eyebrows in concern.
I hope they do not ask, Kathryn poses within as she gives an exaggerated happy face to assuage the concerns of her young visitors. They leave.
The wall. "Why is the wall a pimply little kid,' she says deepening her frown as a tear slowly cascades the ravens and valleys of her face and hides in the shawl that appears to support her head below her chin.
Every year it is the same. The women come from church. Dead husband. Missing grandson. The family is gone. The pimply wall. The fake smile. It makes Kathryn happy to see them, though.
Voices in the distance alert Kathryn that visitors are near. Always on the same day.
"Hi mo.... Mrs. Oliver," says a graying gentleman standing next to a handsome midlle-aged man.
"Are you from the church too," Kathryn inquires with a smile plastered on her face. It is genuine. Visitors are welcomed anytime at this place. She loves the attention. It covers the pain of losing Henry and Hank and the family.
"uh, yes. Do you remember us," the handsome man says as three women join them with a handsome freckled-faced boy!
"Hank," Kathryn screams in delight as tears well up in her eyes. "They found you."
The boy looks at one of the women. "Just like before," the woman pleads of the boy. Please, it helps.
The freckled-faced boy, actually a rather hearty teen gently embraces the frail Kathryn. "I knew you would come back," she gleams. "I knew you would be back." Softly, Kathryn whimpers as the boy's strong arms releases her body.
"Of course I came back, Nan. How are you," the boy asks kneeling before her.
"I'm am fine, Hank. You look like you grew up since last time. Your grandpa Henry would be so happy to see you!"
"Let me help you out of this chair, Nan. We have some catching up to do...
Every year it is the same. The women come from church. Dead husband....
Kathryn hears voices coming toward her. She sees two men, three women and... HANK!
"Hank! You came back!
Henry, Jr, Hank, and Tom approach Kathryn for another visit.
"I don't mind being you a few times a week. It makes Nan happy."
"Not many teenagers would be willing to do that, son. You do look like me, except your freckles are bigger." The three chuckle a little at the obvious chiding statement.
"Why am I the only person who she really talks to," Tom inquires.
"She lives the same few moments every day," responds Henry, Jr. "After dad died two years ago, the doctors said something snapped in her that triggered her Alzheimer's. Every day she lives the day after he died when people came around visiting expressing condolences."
"I ran away that day because I was sad," Hank offered. "You look like me; so, you will be Hank unless her Alzheimer's changes her memories to another day."
"You think she deep down knows that you and grandpa are her grandson and son and I am a great grandson?"
"No. I just don't see it, son. I want to. All she sees are strangers and young Hank," answers the real Hank pointing at Tom.
"I do," Henry, Jr affirms resolutely as Hank with raised brows acknowledges his fathers faith. "I believe she has us somewhere in that head of hers. Somewhere locked inside is her memory of us. It is just stuck on repeat for that one day after Mother's right now."
Referring to the play acting in which his mother and aunts, grandpa, father and he participate, Tom asks, "How long are we going to do this? It has been almost two years."
"As long as you are willing to be me," answers his father with a wink, "we can do it."
As the three mean walk up Kathryn she exclaims, "Hank! You came back!"
Any form of Dementia is a serious matter for the sufferer and those directly affected by a demented individual's illness. Forgetting relatives and friends pose added stress on the suffer, who may think he or she is alone. It is hurtful and stressful for the loved ones who are trying to keep the sufferer from added stress and confusion by playing along with the state of mind of the sufferer. Trying to explain each time to the sufferer who a loved one is can make it hard to want to support the individual. A loved one can reason that it is not as if that person will remember anyway. The frequent visits stop and the sufferer is left in lonely confusion with little support.
In the story, the family was willing to put up with the inconvenience and hurt caused by Kathryn's illness out of pure love for her. She will not remember. The family will remember how much they love Kathryn, however. It will teach them patience and tenderness hardly achieved in any other way.
© 2018 Rodric Johnson