You suck. No that’s putting it mildly. You S-U-C-K suck suck suck! I hate you, I hate what you are doing to my family, I hate what you are doing to someone so special to me. I hate you for invading W’s soul and taking it away. I hate you for so much. And I hate that I can’t really talk about it with the people close to me because it is impacting them worse than me. So I will write here and hope that writing will lessen some of my pain and sadness but knowing that most of it will still remain because every moment I look at “W” my pain and sadness stabs me in the heart.
So please, get lost or at least, slow down,
The Orange Rhino
I have suspected something for several years now. I just knew something wasn’t right. When I first met “W” he didn’t stop talking. He could go on and on and on and on about his favorite snow blower. He often bored me with his ridiculously detailed stories about his days in the war, his days as a youth, his days raising my husband. And even though he bored me, his memory was so amazing and his stories so sweet in an elderly type of way, that I smiled and listened intently.
It’s hard not to listen to W as he looks and acts like I imagine Santa Claus to be. He draws you in with his incredibly soft spoken and gentle demeanor. He has a sweet, reassuring, come hither and trust me with your thoughts, problems and wishes smile. He always has a twinkle in his eyes as he takes joy in so much: his grandsons playing, his son’s success, his wife’s tender heart. And when he chuckles, oh when he chuckles, it just warms your heart and sets you at ease. W simply exudes warmth and all sorts of wonderful the way Santa Claus does. He indeed has a magic about him. A magic that makes you feel like everything will always be okay.
But that twinkle and that sweet, sweet smile, and that magical spirit, along with his memory, have become less and less apparent with every visit.
“W can you please give me the phone?”
“Here.” He said as he handed me the TV remote.
“W can I help you find something in the kitchen?”
“I’m looking for the spoon” he said, holding it in his hand.
“W you look lost, what’s up?”
“Where is my wife?” He said as he walked circles around the first floor.
“W she went to the bathroom, she’ll be right back.” Of course she had just told him this 30 seconds prior.
“W, you look bored. How are you?” I asked him a thousand times over as he just sat on our family room couch, staring off into space not saying a word.
Not saying a damn word.
How I would pay to hear him utter a full sentence about his damn snow blower right now. How I would pay to hear him tell a story about my husband’s childhood. How I would pay to have him be able to play Legos with my sons, to be able to tell them stories from a time my boys will never know.
Instead he just sits. And watches. The twinkle in his eye mostly gone. The smile mostly gone. The chuckle mostly gone.
The magic spirit of W mostly gone. And I totally took it for granted. Totally. And even though I knew “it” was coming, the big “Alzheimer’s diagnosis”, it still all happened so fast. A few years maybe. A few years from my sensing that he was losing his memory and so much of his soul to getting to the point where his spirit was quickly, much too quickly, becoming a memory.
I’ve been doing my best to stay strong for my husband. To not mention all the little signs I notice. To not share with him just how big the pit in my stomach is.
And then this happened, and I couldn’t keep it together any longer. Because it all became too real. And just too sad to not say anything.
It was his wife’s birthday this past weekend. As my wonderful husband has started to do for every holiday, he bought a card from his dad for his mom.
“Orange Rhino, will you have my dad sign this birthday card?” Sure I said. How hard could that be? How heartbreaking could it be?
“Here W, this is a card for your wife for her birthday. Can you sign it?”
He took the pen and kept playing with it in his hands, as if he was trying to figure out how to hold it. After a minute he wrote:
“Hap” and then stopped. I gave him a moment to see if he could figure it out. He couldn’t.
“W do you need help?” I asked sweetly, fighting back tears.
“I don’t know what I am writing.”
“You are writing Happy Birthday I think.”
“What am I writing?”
He tried again but clearly couldn’t. He didn’t remember how to write, how to spell. He didn’t remember but oh I know his hand and his heart both wanted to so badly. Oh how I know how he and I both wanted this damn disease to go away, to stop taking basic things away from W like the ability to write a simple card for the love of his life.
“I’ll write a note for you and you sign your name, okay?”
“Dear wife, Happy 70th Birthday. I’ll love you forever. I will always treasure our memories.”
W then signed his name and we went into the restaurant.
As if nothing had happened.
But it had. My heart had just broken.
The Orange Rhino