'The Places In Between': Alzheimer's Disease
“Hi Dad. It’s me, Ever.”
“I know who it is. What do you want, I’m very busy.”
I was not really sure what he could be busy doing. I had just returned from spending the better part of the day with him. We had gone grocery shopping. I had cleaned the house up. And I had watered his plants on the patio overlooking the golf course. He used to be meticulous about his plants, and now they sat in the hot Florida sun waiting for someone to pay attention, and all they got was me. I felt a little sorry for them.
“Busy doing what?” I inquired.
“I made them dinner.”
“Made who dinner?”
“The children. They wouldn’t leave. I told them to go home to their mother’s, but they refused to leave until I made them dinner.”
I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of this and then quickly wanted to cry because there were no children.
“Dad, what did you cook?”
“I made them a hot meal. They wanted a hot meal. They are children and didn’t want salad or anything like the cold foods you left here.”
“Dad, you don’t really know how to cook.”
“Well I did. Is that a problem?”
“No. No problem. Did you turn off the oven?”
A deep breath escaped me.
“I don’t know. How do I make sure. Can you see it and tell me?”
“Dad, I can’t see I am on the phone.”
“Well I don’t know what to do.” He began to get upset.
“I’ll come back, Dad. I’ll make sure.”
“What will I do?” He put the phone down.
“Dad? Dad are you there?”
I heard him walking around. He was talking to someone who was really no one and wasn’t really there.
“Dad, I will be there soon.”
I sat in the rush hour traffic on I-95 and imagined what could happen. I thought of him trying to cook imaginary children dinner and burning the place down. He didn’t even really like most children and now he was cooking nonexistent ones a hot dinner.
“We have a problem,” I told my brother while sitting on the phone in traffic.
“Look, I’m busy, you take care of it. Don’t make a big deal out of nothing,” he said and hung up as I answered, “It’s not nothing.”
As I pulled into Dad’s gated community it felt like I had just been there, and I guess I had. I knocked on his door, but there was no answer. I searched through my purse for my key and turned it in the lock and went inside. I placed the phone, which sat abandoned where he had left it on the kitchen counter back on its cradle. There was an empty pot on a burner on the stove, burnt and smoldering. I turned the stove off, cracked the window open and filled the pot with water, leaving it soaking in the sink.
“Dad. Daddy…” I called into the dimly lit house.
I found him sitting on the living room couch huddled in a corner.
“You know she’s in there,” he said.
“Who is in where, Dad?”
“It’s your ,other. She is in my bed. You know.”
He looked at me as if I really did.
“She has a space helmet on, and the phone is attached to her head. She just lays there, and she won’t say anything.”
“No, Dad. That must have been a dream. Just a weird kind of a very bad dream.”
“No. You go in and see. She is really there, and I can’t sleep in there with her. And she won’t eat. She doesn’t say anything. She just stares at me. She just lays there.”
I got up and went to look. His bed was made up just as I had left it hours earlier.
“Dad, I really don’t see anyone there.”
“I miss her. I miss your mother. Where is my wife? Why did she leave me here?”
“Daddy, Mom was very sick. Do you remember? She tried to stay, but she had cancer and she got pneumonia. Do you remember?”
Dad’s steely blue eyes teared.
“Who did I see in there? I am sure it was your mother.”
“I think you had a dream. You know that sometimes we fall asleep and think we see someone and we wake up and could swear they are there? But they aren’t and it is really just a dream. Right?”
He began to cry.
“Ever, I can’t do this.”
“Can’t do what, Dad?”
“I am a doctor, and I know.”
“I know what is happening to my head. Can you help me make it stop?” He looked at me as if I could do something. And I wanted to. I really wanted to. I knew I was watching someone who knew they were losing a battle. He was losing reality.
“Hey, Daddy, why don’t you tell me the story about when you saw Arnold Palmer at the Masters with Grandpa.” I smiled.
“Well. I… You tell it. You tell it better than me.” He smiled back.
I told him the story, and he laughed as if he was hearing it for the very first time. I went back into the bedroom and turned back the blankets.
“She’s not in there. The coast is clear.”
“Who? There is no one here except you and me. I need to go to bed now. It’s time for you to go home. It is getting late,” he said.
I kissed him goodnight and locked the door behind me.
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Thinkstock photo by NADO FOTOS