Trigger warning: Dementia, Alzheimer’s
The old couple had lived alone in their house for the last thirty years. Their kids would visit, along with the grandchildren, but, in the end, it was always old Ma and Pa who would say goodnight to each other. Ma was a stickler for organization, and was the drill sergeant of the family. Pa liked to think he let her do it, and said as much under his breath, but usually kowtowed to her every whim.
Now that they had raised their family, and the kids were gone (although not far away),
Ma started to find that her skills and eccentricities were wasted on the old man, and she began to get a little more anxious, restless, and obsessive with her cleaning and such. The visits from the kids were now a little less frequent, and, when they did come, some odd things about the house were noticed and discussed amongst them. The bathroom was often short of supplies such as tissue. A loaf of bread, newly purchased, would be found in the garbage can. All of the blinds would be closed (and tied down) even during the day. I don’t want anyone to see in here. Pa’s personal effects would often go missing, and he would find them inside Ma’s dresser.
If any of these things were mentioned within her hearing, she grew agitated and more restless. If someone asked for a roll of toilet paper, she would get up abruptly, go to her bedroom, close the door behind her, and come out a minute later with the prize. She developed an aversion to bathing, or even changing clothes, and underhanded methods had to be used to get her to do these things. Once, the old man suggested that someone could “accidentally” dump a glass of grape juice in her lap as they walked by. It was the first uniform change and bath that she had had in quite a while. When missing items were discussed, she would accuse “someone” of stealing them. She made frequent requests to have the furniture rearranged “just so”.
Finally, the kids drummed up the courage to suggest that they both needed to be in a continuous care home. She became almost violent, and they were at their wits’ end. None of them had the time or the capacity to look after their 80 year old parents. On a time, Pa, who was still lucid, devised a plan where they would persuade her to get dressed because they were going for a nice ride. The kids were almost in tears with guilt, and could not look at each other, but co-operated in this little charade.
Until Ma, getting into the spirit of things, began to clean herself up and to put on her Sunday best.
“We’re going home, aren’t we? We’re going home!
Pa kept a stiff upper lip, and they all bundled into the car for the drive to the care home.
Are you sure you packed my suitcase? Yes, Ma.
They stayed with her there, all afternoon and part of the evening, encouraging her to meet and greet some of the folks there. She treated them as long lost friends, and seemed right at home, much to everyone’s chagrin. There was a small room for her, and Pa was allowed to stay with her for the night, to ease the transition. The reality was that he had not been assessed yet, and it would take some time for him to take up residence.
And so, some of the kids took turns staying with Pa at home, or having him to their place, until better arrangements could be made. They took him to see Ma every day, and, as the couple were used to sleeping in separate rooms, she seemed not to find it odd when he kissed her goodnight.
One cold night, after Pa had stayed with his daughter and son-in-law for a couple of days, they discovered he was missing. It would be the last night of his life.
He was going home, too, but not to a house.
Ma had never found her home, but her keyholder was now gone. She knew it, and was gone three days later.
Lee Dunn has been writing since the age of 18, but found that work got in the way for the ensuing 48 years. In his home town of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, he reveled in his independence at an early age, and spent as much time as he could exploring the city’s Arts scene. He was introduced to poetry and prose by the works of two literary giants, namely J.R.R. Tolkien and J.W. Lennon and thence fell in love with the written word. His work includes poetry, short fiction, and personal essays, and ranges in theme from the surreal to the horrific, nostalgic, and themes on the human condition. He has been published on Spillwords.com, The Dark Poets Club, Journal of Undiscovered Poets, Crepe & Penn Literary magazine, and the Shelburne Free Press.