By Anne Hicks
Where am I again?
The grayish blue walls and mild murmur of the people around me seem familiar, yet I can’t quite place it in my memory. A young woman is sitting near me, holding a glass of water. Her other hand holds a pill case, labelled “Donepezil.”
Where have I heard that name before?
The woman hands me the water and pills and instructs me to swallow. Her voice is soft. Her hair is a deep chestnut, and flows in waves over a periwinkle sweater. I take the pills.
Where am I again?
There are tables seating other older men and women, each with a younger helper. They make pleasant small talk, the glow of smiles beaming through both young and old skin. They laugh as they eat, making pleasant conversation. The young man two tables to my left bears a striking resemblance to the man he’s helping. He must be his son.
Where am I again?
My unfamiliar helper takes the glass from my hand and leads me to my wheelchair. Her hands are soft. She’s very young, maybe 20, but isn’t careless like many of the other young people here. Across the room, a set of toddlers run around an older woman, while a teenager nearby watches out of the corner of his eye, one hand rapidly typing on a computer. The young woman next to me is gentle, and pays close attention to my movements. I have someone who I know I can trust, even if I know remember who she is. I relax under her gaze. She’ll take care of me, I can feel it.
I can only remember a little of what I’ve done today. I know I sat outside with my helper for a while. I know she watered the flowers in my room. I wonder where those came from. I can’t remember who brought them for the life of me. Just like most other things.
Did I take my pills today?
I turn my attention back to my assistant. As she helps me lower into my chair, I see a flash of gold from her right hand. I peer a little closer, my old eyes straining to focus.
The gold band fits perfectly around my finger. It’s not too complicated, not too simple. It’s perfect.
I look up into his eyes and see that smirk I know so well start to creep onto his face. I feel my feet lift away from the dewey grass as I’m swept up into his embrace. The thin fabric of my dress brushes against my legs and a sudden breeze hits my toes. I watch my shoes fling across the yard and my surroundings spin around me. His smiling face stays still and gleaming, and his hands remain around my waist for another second until he puts me down. I’ve never seen him this happy.
“I love it,” I tell him, and I really mean it. He takes my hand and we walk back to the house. The golden light filtering through the trees outside of my parents’ old house sets the perfect mood.
“Let’s get you to bed, you’ve had a lot of excitement today.”
The elevator comes to a stop and she pushes me out into a light colored hallway.
Who is this woman?
We turn into a small room with a low bed. A table next to what must be my bed holds a vase of petunias. My favorite. Through a window across the way I can see a willow tree, whose long tendrils of feathery, golden-green leaves blow slightly in the wind and create specks of light that dance across the floor like pixies. I can feel my eyes starting to droop already.
As I ease out of my chair and lay my head on the thin pillows, she wraps me in the grey toned blankets. As she pulls the covers over my body I start to see her face in a new light.
The emerald green irises surround black pupils in which I can see my own reflection. The pupils dilate as she stares at me, while her tiny hand tightly clutches the doll I had made for her. The stitches are fresh, only a week old, but the fabric is worn thin and dirty.
“Honey?” I call back into the house. My little girl plops down on the carpet and her eyes begin to well up.
“Honey!” I’m more insistent this time. He comes rushing into the living room, books in hand. He scoops her up and keeps her in his arms, and as they settle into our couch, her tears fade until there’s nothing left but a rainbow of a smile.
I pick up my laundry and head outside. I can still hear his voice, morphing into different characters, and her wonder, laughing at all the right parts, intently listening. I’m still hanging up our wet clothes, but I turn around just in time to see her kiss him on the cheek.
Then, as sweet as sugar, her singsong voice- “I love you!”
I look up at her, confused.
Who is she?
She turns around and walks to the windows to close them. My eyes start to droop as her figure gets smaller in the distance. The ten feet to the door seems like a mile.
“I love you, Grandma. I’ll be back soon. Get some rest.”
I don’t want to sleep anymore, but I can’t help it. My mind is whirling but my body is exhausted. Fragments of old memories flash before my eyes as the room gets darker and darker.
My mother’s funeral.
The tension in my shoulders releases.
My breathing slows.
My husband smiling at a little girl.
That girl going to college.
The petunias next to my bed blur from my vision.
A baby crying.
My eyes snap open.
“Evelyn?” Her name escapes from my lips with more air than sound. I see her face break into a smile. I remember her. As I watch, the corners of her mouth lift and her eyes gleam with an innocence only found in children. I remember her!
She rushes over to me and buries her face in my shoulder, tears of joy welling up in her eyes that look just like her mother’s, which soak through into my shirt. “Yes, Grandma, I’m here!” I join her in tears.
I remember you.
“It’s me, Evelyn, your granddaughter! Oh my goodness, you remember!”
I’m just as shocked as she is. She stays by my side for a while, until I slowly collapse into my pillow. I grasp onto the memory of her identity as my eyelids flutter close and my breathing slows. I see her face in my mind one last time before everything goes black and my lips release the breath I felt like I’d been holding all day.
My mind awakens and I lay in bed for a moment before I allow my eyelids to flutter open. My face feels puffy and my pillow is slightly damp. I try lift my hand up to my face and remember I’m too weak to do so alone.
Where am I again?
I hear a soft knocking to my left as the door creaks open. A young woman with long, dark hair walks in and tip toes to the curtains to open them. I lay still as she tidies up makes her way to me. I like her sweater. Periwinkle is my favorite color.
“How are you feeling?” she asks in an unfamiliar voice.
Who is she?