“We’re meeting my friend, Kathy, for lunch.” She wasn’t my friend.
“Oh, where’s that?”
I pointed. “Right there.”
“We’re having lunch?”
“Who are we meeting?”
I pulled into a parking space. I didn’t cry.
“Ok, let’s go.”
“I’ll stay here.”
“No, come. We’re having lunch”
“Ok.” He got out of the car and we walked to the front entrance.
“That’s beautiful,” he said, lingering at front of the door, staring at the silk flowers that were stapled around the entrance way.
“You like those?” I asked. “If they were real, they’d be wisteria. Pretty, aren’t they?”
We stepped over the threshold into Highlands Memory Care. He thought it was a restaurant.
“HI, Mister Roberts!” Two aides flanked him and walked him in the opposite direction. He glanced back at me, doubtfully.
“It’s ok,” I nodded. “I’m just going to get the food. I’ll be right there.” A lie.
I looked at the administrator. “What now?”
“You have to get out of here.” She punched the code into the panel beside the door and pushed me through.
“So, that’s it?”
It was our third attempt.
The first facility we tried, he lasted an hour before throwing a violent fit. He walked out the front door, almost into traffic.
We never made it to the second facility. He stormed out of the house and walked for almost two miles. He eventually got in our neighbor’s car, even though he didn’t recognize her.
We were hopelessly distraught. Years of caring for someone who’s capable of killing themselves, but utterly unable to learn, left us exhausted. His memory was shot. Late stage Alzheimer’s.
“You need a locked facility,” both places had advised. “Someplace he can’t leave, until he becomes comfortable.”
“He’ll be better there,” friends said. “More social interaction. Trained care. People who will keep him engaged.”
Even when you know something’s right, you don’t always know it.
I stayed for two hours. I got a status every 20 minutes. He’s fine, they said. He thinks he’s volunteering.
Thirty minutes later, he asked where he was. He wanted to go home: not to my home, but to the home he was raised in–a place he hadn’t lived for 50 years.
Twenty minutes after that, he was upset. He tried the doors and windows. He yelled at the aides.
“He’ll be alright,” they said. “He’ll adjust. The first day is the hardest. Go home. Call us later.”
I went home. I called them five times that night. He’d gone to bed at 11:30pm. He woke up at 5:30am.
He was in a better mood the next day. The following day, he’d almost completely adjusted. He smiled. He joked with the aides.
Just like that, the man who lived with me for years only vaguely recognized me during visits. He wasn’t sure who I was to him. Daughter? Wife? Nurse?
Now, I’m the girl who comes for lunch.
This is the final post of Flash Fiction Week VI: Fathers, Mothers, Others, a theme week on Magnificent Nose.
Ceil Kessler is a person who writes things, and does other assorted activities.She occasionally writes in her blog, renovates investment properties, and inspires people to write short fiction. You can find all her other writings and such in her writing repository.