Forgetting The Facts

October 15, 2007
By Katie Lewis, Gainesville, GA

I remember how the words trickled out of her distant mouth. I remember it exactly. The way she looked, the tone of her voice, and how she didn’t hesitate to ask were all permanently implanted in my head, like a seed being potted in fresh soil. Most of all, I remember the very way I felt at that exact moment when my life changed for good.

My family and I had just flown into the Dallas/Forth Worth airport. It was mid-evening and as usual the airport was crowded, full of people pushing and shoving into each other like carnivorous packs of wild animals fighting over the kill of the day. Businessmen and women passed by me so closely I could almost taste the starch from their freshly pressed suits. My mother, father, sister, and I trotted in a single file line being careful as ever not to loose sight of the suitcase in front of us.

Finally reaching our destination, I was relieved and took a deep breath. Yuletide air filled my lungs. I thought there was something about the smell of smog and pollution that would make me miss the city even more than the modern conveniences that covered every inch of everywhere, but I found that Alaska was much more exciting, the wild being only a door away.

Dad was off fetching the keys to our rental car. Upon his return we loaded our hefty pieces of luggage into the blue sedan and drove out of the pothole infested parking lot. Passing white lines marking parking spaces memorized me for seconds beyond my control. Released from the clutches of the hypnotic lines I realized it was cold enough here to make my breath visible. Although there weren’t any signs of snow in the vast gray sky above me, I couldn’t help but wonder what Allen might look like covered in a pearly white blanket of crystals.

An awkward silence smothered the car as if we were afraid to speak. I felt the automobile accelerate a bit, followed by a sudden stop. Unaware of where we were I rubbed the foggy window to my left with the sleeve of my gray army pullover to see enough to make out my grandparents’ garden, almost completely dead from a surprising winter frost. The luminous headlights of the car were shining on the dining room of their home, and revealed my grandpa peering out the eggshell colored Venetian blinds, which he was known for doing ever since Dad was in high school.

Practically stumbling out the front door, his indigo blue housecoat trailing in his wake, he made his way around a semi-circle my mother, father, and sister had formed in front of the grill of the car, hugging and kissing each of them on their cheeks affectionately. I sat and studied the smile on his face. The grin he put on was as worn out as he probably was from taking care of my grandma 24/7, I could tell from the lines around his eyes he hadn’t had much sleep. An unsettling feeling had taken control of my insides, twisting and churning them like a blender brutally shaving ice. I was almost completely sure Grandma’s Alzheimer’s had gotten worse. The thought made me wince. Had she forgotten who we were?

Looking up from my uneven nails that sat in a pile in my lap fidgeting with the hem on my jeans, I saw my Grandpa looking at me, sparks filling his eyes, as if bringing back memories from the past. He waved anxiously. At that, I opened the door that was covered in black leather, which moaned like the cow it used to be before it was killed to furnish the inside of this piece of machinery. I found an eager smile, and stepped out of the vehicle.

“Sweetie,” his fond voice echoed through my head.

“I’ve missed you so much,” the words barely came out this time. His voice cracked and salty tears swam down his rough skin like a cloud of rain had just been cut open above his head.

I leaned in closer, “Me too Papa,” I comforted, offering a massive hug to his small frame. Not another word was said, not another sound from anyone, almost like we all knew it would ruin the moment. With his hand on my shoulder, he gestured to the door. We walked almost in unison, left, right, left, until we reached the cracked door. My toe pressed it open illuminating the driveway fully. Before my eyes could even adjust to the light inside, I knew the identity of the woman who was standing a short distance from me.

“Hey Grandma,” I broke in uneasily. A nervous sweat had come over me, and I could feel the beads of sweat building up on my brow. The seconds of silence turned into years and I had begun to think she had forgotten me.

“Oh, hi there Katie?” she half questioned.

“Yes! It’s me!” I boomed with joyous laughter and ran over to hug her tightly. Feeling like nothing in the world could make me miserable again, Mom pulled herself through the door sporting a gray hospital boot on her right ankle.

“Hi Dot,” Mom greeted setting her large black purse on Grandma’s prized writing desk that had been collecting dust for what looked like ages. A bleak expression came over my face without warning. Grandma that’s your cue.

“Dot?” Mom called to her again, and yet again, no response. My grandpa had made his way over to her side and was whispering something into her ear so softly I couldn’t even make it out. Bewilderment filled everyone’s faces.

“Are you their mother?” Grandma asked my Mom, the tone in her voice rose dramatically. I knew she didn’t know who Mom was and was searching for the answer the only way she knew how. I couldn’t help but think my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s was bad enough that she actually forgot someone that had been in the family for sixteen years. My eyes welled up but the flow of tears was blocked by some kind of force field.

“Well yeah Dot, you knew that,” Mom replied, and turned away not too shaken by the fact she had been forgotten by her mother-in-law.

The sad part was, that Grandma didn’t know that. All memory of Mom was lost in some kind of black hole in her mind, along with other bits and pieces of things she once treasured. A horde of uncertainties crammed into my head all at once. What would become of Grandma if she forgets my Grandpa?

A scene popped into my head replaying itself over and over again until the image was quite clear. I saw my Grandmother sitting in a faded wingback chair, her body the frailest I had ever seen. A bolded black and white sign above her head read, Welcome to Golden Grove Nursing Home.

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