Alzheimer’s: A DAY IN THE LIFE

Submitted by Amber Shreves to Contest #15 in response to: Write about one character’s fundamental misunderstanding of another character’s job.... view prompt

I’m waking up this morning to someone standing over my bed, almost… hovering. Her hair is up high on her head in a pony tail, like I used to wear in my younger days. Back before mine all went gray as a storm cloud. But hers’ is still long and beautiful. It looks natural, too. All one crisp shade of golden brown. She’s wearing some sort of uniform that looks as if she would have to swim herself out of it. I can’t help but think someone should teach this girl how to buy clothes that fit her. It’s a very unflattering outfit. But maybe that’s what the kids are wearing these days. It’s hard for me to keep up. Now her black rimmed glasses are sliding down her nose and nearly falling off her face as she looks at me. She’s peering down at my bed with a smile so big, it looks like she painted it on.

               “Good morning, Sunshine!” She yells as if she has already been awake for hours and had at least two cups of extra strong coffee. I let out a small grunt and cover my face with a pillow. Why is she doing this? She’s pulling the covers off me and it’s freezing in here. Now she’s pulling on my arm.

               “What are you doing?!” I’m getting upset now.

               “It’s time to get up Barb.”

               I’m not sure what’s going on here, but she seems to know me. Maybe I’ll just get up and go with her. It’ll be easier that way. I need some coffee anyway. WOW. These old legs don’t move as quickly as they used to. I’m having trouble standing myself up this morning. The girl seems to be noticing. She keeps steadying her arms around me, as if she’s going to catch me if I fall. I guess that’s nice of her. Maybe she’s not so bad after all.

               “Let’s get you dressed.” There she goes again, with that oversized smile. It’s like she’s happy to be waking old ladies up at the crack of dawn and then telling them what to do. Strange if you ask me.

               “What? I always have my coffee in my pajamas. And Charles… where is he?” I’m looking around for my husband, but he’s not here. What a strange morning this is becoming. “He didn’t sleep with me last night?”

               “No, sweetheart, Charles didn’t stay with you last night. But your son, Andy, remember him? He wanted you to stay here so we could make sure you have everything you need.” Her tone seems a little condescending.

               “Andy? Well of course I remember him. Who wouldn’t remember her own son?” I’m getting aggravated now. “Why would he leave me here?”

               She’s smiling again, but this time it’s not so big. It’s a worried kind of smile. What is she worried about? She keeps blabbering on about how I need to get dressed so I can have coffee with all my friends in the dining room. What dining room? What friends? Although, I must say, ‘friends’ is a very refreshing word right now. I sure could use a couple. The nerve of her! She’s even picking out my clothes for me. I just want to get dressed and get to this dining room so I can ask my friends what’s going on here. So, to appease this young woman, and to hold onto my sanity, I’ll go along with her. For now.

               “Okay.” She’s smiling again. “Let’s get you into the shower so we can get these warm clothes on.”

               That’s it! I’ve had it. I’m telling her as much right now. I’m screaming and I’m hitting and I’m not ashamed of any of it. You can’t do this to a person. You just can’t. She’s not listening to me. She’s taking me to the bathroom even though I just told her I didn’t want this.

               “What exactly is the matter with you?” I’m being blunt now.

               “This is my job, Barb. To make sure you’re OK. To make sure you have all that you need.”

               “Your job? I didn’t hire you!”

               “No, your son did. Andy. He just wants to make sure you’re OK while he’s gone. He’s really a good son, isn’t he?” She seems to think highly of him. Who wouldn’t? He’s a good boy. I raised him to be just that. And now here I am, sitting in this beat up-old shower chair telling a complete stranger how sweet my little boy is. She seems to like my stories. She’s laughing a lot. She’s really a sweet girl.

               “Maybe you and Andy could go out sometime. I think you’d be good for him.” I hope she considers it. He needs a good girl.

               “That’s really sweet, Barb. But Andy’s married, remember, to Jenna.”

               “Oh yes, that’s right. Jenna. She’s a pretty little thing. A little on the skinny side, but I won’t hold that against her.” The girls’ really laughing at that one.

               “All done, Barb. Let’s get you dressed and out of here.”

She needs to hurry up with those clothes because I’m C.O.L.D. I’m so cold, I don’t even care that some strange woman is helping me get dressed. Just get me dressed! I like what I’m wearing today. This must be a new outfit. I don’t remember buying it. Maybe Andy got it as a gift, or Charles. My two favorite men. They’re so good to me. And they obviously know what I like in the way of fashion: a long-sleeve ivory blouse with two pearl buttons at the neck and black, elastic-waisted, dress pants. Perfect. I look like a million bucks!

               I’m really enjoying the conversation I’m having with this sweet young girl as we walk down the hallway. Although, I could do without the people scattered about, watching us. Why are there so many old people here? Is it her job to take them to breakfast, too? She must be one busy girl. I think I’ll ask her.

               “Are you in charge of taking all these people out to breakfast?”

               “Yes, I am!” There’s that smile again. “I get to take about a dozen wonderful women and gentlemen to breakfast every morning.”

               “Wow. That’s a strange job. I’ve never heard of that before. But, if anyone were going to take me to breakfast to meet my friends, I couldn’t have asked for a better young lady.”

I really do like her. She’s so kind. Although, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that can’t wait to be rid of her after this. I just want to be left to myself. This isn’t how I typically do things. In my house, oh what a beautiful house it is, every morning starts off the same. Charles and I roll out of bed at 8 O’clock sharp, as we smell the percolating coffee wafting through the room. I was so happy when they came out with those fancy coffee makers that start themselves in the morning. Neither of us change out of our night dressings before coffee. I can see us now, Charles in his white T-shirt with the two holes near his bulging stomach and his dingy white boxer shorts; I always make him throw a robe over that monstrosity, and me in my red and black flannel, two-piece ensemble. His hair, crinkled and white. I can just imagine what mine is like first thing in the morning. We’re quite a sight!

               We sit across from each other near the kitchen window and talk about the weather, about Andy, about anything really. We like to just let the morning sun rays hit our skin and remember all that we have to be thankful for. An entire lifetime of happiness. That’s why mornings have always been my favorite. That first sip of coffee and that first ray of light, it really sets the tone for my day. And looking over at that handsome man across the table is a big help, too!

               “Will Charles be in the dining room?” I miss him so much already.

               “No, hun, Charles is out today.” She looks sad this time. “But I’m sure you’ll have a great breakfast with all your new friends.”

               “Will he be back after breakfast? I’m ready to go home now.”

               “Look, there they are now!” That was as close as she could get to interrupting me without actually interrupting me. 

               She’s leading me to a table of unfamiliar faces. Nothing about this place, or these people, makes sense to me. She’s gone, almost as quickly as she helped plop me into this seat. What a cold place this is. I take a sip of coffee. The coffee here isn’t bad, but it isn’t good either. It tastes stale. The faces around the table look about how my coffee tastes. Stale. Bland. Unfamiliar. I liked the breakfast girl but I’m glad her job with me is done. I don’t care if I ever see her again. I just want to go home. And where is Charlie? What a cold place this is.  

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