I love your balding head, and how when you sneeze, your pants soak with incontinence. Sometimes you don’t remember my name. On those days, a dark cloud of denial consoles my pain.
The fourth time you served me wheat instead of rye, I devised a blueprint for a metallic mind. It would operate like clockwork, and, like the chime of the hour, it would not let you forget–your mother’s birthplace and her death, your sister’s worst haircut, the smell of lavender on our wedding day, the way the hospital room s t i l l e d then exploded as our son made his debut, or all the harsh words we screamed when it stormed hard enough to conceal the words we didn’t mean.
We don’t talk like that anymore. We talk about the weather, the news, or people we knew–long dead–that your sick brain has resurrected. We have the same conversations three times a day.
Sometimes, when you’ve fallen asleep on the couch, your head slumped to one side and your expression is one of peace, I remember that day at uni–after the weeks of rain had finally stopped, dead worms pasted to the sidewalk–your hand was in mine. We were walking through rays of sun, final exams on our minds, when you said something under your breath, “The end of learning is gracious living.” To which I stopped my chatter, “What did you say?” And you directed my gaze upward, to the masonry of a building I’d lived in for three semesters. In the concrete, it read, “The End of Learning is Gracious Living.” I returned my eyes to you then, your coy, wistful expression, and I knew these words I wouldn’t comprehend so soon.
Now, I do. Because the Alzheimer’s may take you second–and maybe God will take you third–but my love will always take you first.