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The Disapearing Man
He's dead. He died not too long ago, and he's dead. People may disagree seeing that his body is still moving and saying words, but Uncle Herman is gone.
It was a nice sunny day in the place I called home, Holland, Michigan. The birds were singing and everything was so peaceful. This was all true until my mother came in with a gloomy face which could never be good.
"Jamie," she said in a very distant sounding voice, "We've got some bad news."
"Lay it on me!" I said in an up lifting voice, hoping to help my mother out of her bad mood.
"It's about your Uncle Herman; he went to the doctor today and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
"My heart dropped. This couldn't happen to me, not to my Uncle! I loved my Uncle!
My Uncle Herman was a kind man, and smart too. He always cared about my sisters and me. He was bald with a little bit of thin grey hair on the sides of his head. He was very tall, long legs. He had a small hunch and had shaky hands. What I liked most about my Uncle Herman is that whenever we came over he would always dress up nice and give my sisters and me some M&M's. My sisters told me how they used to tell their friends that he had an M&M factory in his basement. Also, every time we left his house to go back home, he would take out his handkerchief and would start “crying” as we left his drive way. He was such a fun guy.
A little while later I was sitting in our big golden minivan. I was just about to arrive at my Aunt June and Uncle Herman's house. I couldn't wait to see them, I usually had a fun time talking to them, and they had some fun stories to tell. When we got there, we were greeting by the usual "Hellooooo!" from my aunt. We went about our usual routine. First we talk, then we get bored, then we eat, and then talk some more. I was having an unusual time at this meeting but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I realized it a few moments later. It was my Uncle Herman. He wasn't talking to anyone. Then it hit me, he has Alzheimer's. I had totally forgotten! At first I was happy that I had remembered, but then I was hit by a huge wave of sadness. So he has Alzheimer's, I thought, that doesn't explain why he's not talking to me (I was only about nine or ten). I was stuck on this question the whole night, hoping for an answer. It came sometime later. We had just finished dinner and I was sitting down on the lumpy old couch while reading my book. I heard some whispering, so I looked up. I saw my Uncle Herman talking to himself. He was asking himself a question. The question was, “Who are all these people?” WHAT? I thought to myself, He doesn’t remember us? I thought that was bad, but compared to what he started doing (or not doing), I was totally wrong.
I was just turning twelve and I was waiting for my family to arrive. First, my grandparents came. Then, my Uncle Herman and Aunt June came. Lastly, the family that you have to tell to be there at three so you can start the party at four was there. We were having chicken or something like that. My Aunt June had a difficult time walking so my cousin was helping her gather her food on a plate. My Cousin Margo asked “What do you want Junie baby?”
“I would like…” My aunt started in reply.
“No one gives a d*** what you want!” My Uncle Herman said abruptly.
That’s when I realized his Alzheimer’s was getting worse. I had never seen him act this way before! My uncle wasn’t that kind of guy, or at least, I thought he wasn’t. Isn’t that a nice birthday present…
About three weeks later I was sitting in my aunt’s living room with a can of sprite in my hand. Uncle Herman was now in his bed. My mother and I were sitting in the living room, waiting for my Aunt June to come out of the bathroom. There was a nice nurse there at all times. That day, she had brought her daughter, Lauren, with her who was around my age. We started talking about different things, like how we both play the same instrument, school, and then came the subject of Uncle Herman. At this point, he was in his room screaming at the nurse, trying to get his socks on. Never going to happen, I thought sorrowfully. Lauren told me about the time that she had stayed the night at my aunt and uncle’s house.
She said that Uncle Herman was angry and was refusing to go to bed. In the midst of all of that anger Uncle Herman saw that she was frightened. Herman stopped yelling at that point and smiled at her. He gave her a little wave and said in a soft voice “Good Night” and then he went back to screaming at the nurse. That story gave me hope that Uncle Herman was in there, somewhere.
My aunt finally came out of the bathroom and gave me permission to go into Uncle Herman’s room for what probably would have been the last time I would ever see him. I walked in and found him asleep. His skin was as white as a freshly painted picket fence. I could hear the sound coming out of his mouth that some might call breathing, or the loss of it. For some reason I had no tears welling up in my eyes, but I definitely had that heart wrenching feel in my chest. I felt like I could feel his spirit slipping away. Then for what was probably the last time I would see him I quietly said “Good bye Uncle Herman.”
At our last family reunion it was rainy, windy and cold. We blamed it on Uncle Herman, saying that he was trying to tell us “You can’t have fun without me!” We ignored it, we still had fun! The weirdest part, though, was that just as we were leaving it started to sprinkle the lightest touch of rain. I knew then, that Uncle Herman was crying as we left for home. Hello, Uncle Herman.