48 comments

Submitted on 08/08/2020

Categories: Drama Romance

“Your wife's confusion is partly due to salicylate poisoning,” the young doctor explains. 

Orville waits patiently for him to continue, holding his wife’s sweater while she dresses in the examination room. The doctor’s office is too cold, as Texans like their air conditioning glacial. It hurts his knees. 

“Essentially she is taking far too much aspirin,” the doctor says. “This inhibits the Krebs cycle, causing her to produce less ATP. She may only be in Phase I, as exhibited by her hyperventilation.”

Orville feels older than his years—and far less confident—the longer the young man talks. Orville wants to apologize to the doctor for allowing his wife to poison herself. He should be better at taking care of her. 

He remains silent for a time, until he swallows enough pride to ask the doctor one simple question: “What do I do?” 

“We have treated her with activated charcoal which should absorb the excess aspirin in her gastrointestinal tract. However, you will need to find all of her bottles of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen as well as any bottles of acetaminophen. Collect them. Keep them out of reach.” The doctor no longer directly talks to Orville, but to the file folder he is quickly marking up in front of him. 

Get the bottles. Keep them out of reach as if she were a child. Like the Flintstone vitamins we had to hide when the kids were little. They would pick out the orange ones and eat them until their stomachs ached. 

“All right then,” Orville says and stands. His left knee protests, but he pays it no mind. 

“As you know, your wife’s dementia is progressing as well,” the doctor states flatly. 

Confused for a moment because both progressing and well sound hopeful, Orville concedes, “She has good days and bad days.”

“At this point, I think we can classify your wife as being in Stage 4.”

“I thought we were in Phase I?”

“Phase I for the salicylate poisoning,” the doctor explains. “Stage 4 for her dementia. She has clearly moved from a mild to a moderate decline. You should expect a further decrease in her short-term memory, her forgetting specific details about the past. Have you noticed anything distressing her lately?”

Orville is quiet again. The doctor need not know everything. Orville finally asks: “How many stages are in Alzheimer’s?”

“There are seven progressive stages, ranging from no impairment to very severe decline. If you’d like, I can refer you to another neurologist or geriatrician to conduct further tests,” the doctor offers.

“We have done the tests,” Orville murmurs. Three more stages left. He holds his wife’s sweater more firmly. Oh, my little dear.

“Here we are,” a nurse says brightly, entering the doctor’s office with his wife. She is still so lovely, a little spitfire with cornflower blue eyes, looking around the room for anything familiar. Her relief is plain on her face when she sees him. 

“Ollie, let’s get out of here,” she says, pulling her sweater out of his hands.

“All right then,” he says, nodding to the doctor and the nurse. 



“How about we stop and get a hamburger?” Orville asks as they drive back home. 

“I’d like that, Ollie.”

Orville smiles.



While he eats his cheeseburger, Orville watches his wife relishing her large Cherry Coke, tightly holding onto it with both hands. She has already refilled her cup twice, leaving her meal untouched. Her taste for sweets now supersedes any other sensation. Orville watches her pick the pickles off her hamburger. She used to pick snap peas out of her little garden, eating them right off the vine. The garden lay fallow now, the gardener no longer able to organize even the simplest of tasks.



It is a short drive home, the exterior looking as worn and tired as its occupants. Before, his wife had been a fastidious housekeeper, sweeping the front walk each morning. Now, half-drunk cans of soda pop and candy wrappers dot the house. He doesn’t mind picking up after her, since she certainly did her time taking good care of all of them over the decades. 

He wishes the kids would call more frequently, but there isn’t much to say and they keep talking about retirement homes. This agitates him. He swears at his seemingly ungrateful adult children, vowing as long as his wife recognizes him that she’ll stay in her own home. So they don’t call very much and the visits are winnowing down to just the major holidays. Orville knows they have busy lives. He can’t remember being that busy, but he is a simple man from a far simpler time. His wife used to be the busy one, constantly writing lists and sending out greeting cards with $25 checks inside and running endless errands. She doesn’t drive now, ever since she’d backed into the neighbor’s garage door across the street. 

That’s another curse of old age: the embarrassment of it all. I apologize for my wife damaging your garage door. I’m sorry my wife picked up your baby, but she thought it was hers. My wife isn’t feeling well, so she forgot to dress before going outside to get the mail. The indignity of the pitying looks taxes Orville’s patience. Gossipy fishwives at church mouth: How is she doing? Dusty old men, older than he, looking at him with cold sympathy, encircling their own wives with gratitude that they haven’t lost it. The neighborhood children run and scamper, looking at them both like specters when they do emerge from their shabby house.

Orville sinks into his stained recliner and turns on the television, showing him a world he doesn’t care much for anymore. After a few moments, he hears his wife rustling through the back bedroom closet, and he briefly wonders if he should check on her. His knees tell him not to, to just rest for a bit longer.

His eyes open as she stands in front of him, dressed in a pretty party dress. She used to take great pride in being the same dress size as the day they were married. Although she is wearing two different high heels, she is all the more lovely for it. 

“Dance with me, Ollie?” she coyly asks. It is the same question she asked him nearly 60-odd years ago. Bold of her, even at a Sadie Hawkins dance in a community center’s multipurpose room. 

“All right then,” he says softly, ignores his knee yet again, and holds his wife tenderly while music from ages past plays in both their respective memories. 



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48 comments

Doubra Akika
15:12 Aug 10, 2020

I can't even express how much I loved this. The ending is so sweet. Felt so many emotions reading this. You did a wonderful job!

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Deidra Lovegren
15:25 Aug 10, 2020

Thanks 🙏🏻 so much. I appreciate your thoughtful comment. ❤️

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Pragya Rathore
10:00 Sep 16, 2020

This is exquisite! I love how you tied in the fact that his knees were aching so much. This is honestly moving. I really loved it even more than the sequel :)

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Deidra Lovegren
10:14 Sep 16, 2020

You are the best. Thanks for the moral support :)

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18:06 Aug 16, 2020

Awwww, this was ironically very SWEET Dei!!! I loved the ending. It had this peaceful, beautiful aura around it even though they were both suffering the wiles of old age. Ahhh... They've got each other, which makes it better so ;D Lovely story!!!! Well written and very heartfelt Dei! Keep writingggggg!!!! (No seriously do, I just absolutely terrifyingly adore your storytelling!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It keeps me LOCKED....)

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Deidra Lovegren
19:03 Aug 16, 2020

You are my HERO. Love you so much.

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Nandan Prasad
15:39 Aug 16, 2020

Beautifully written story! Loved the emotion.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:02 Aug 16, 2020

Thanks, Nandan! :)

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Nandan Prasad
01:54 Aug 17, 2020

You're welcome.

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Sunny Iyer
08:47 Sep 19, 2020

This reminds me of the movie "Still Alice". Your story is so heartbreaking and sweet.

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Deidra Lovegren
11:11 Sep 19, 2020

Thanks for reading 📖❤️

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Leya Newi
12:39 Sep 16, 2020

Yay! This was so good, and sweet, and sad. I absolutely loved it, Deidra! Keep writing!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:17 Sep 16, 2020

Thank you so much, Leya. Keep reading and I'll keep writing WoooHoooo!!

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Leya Newi
01:48 Sep 17, 2020

Yay!

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Len Mooring
23:11 Aug 18, 2020

I hope you are published for the broad reading public to appreciate your skill. I had tears at the end of your marvellous story.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:14 Aug 18, 2020

Just good ol’ Reedsy for now. If you have ideas, let me know 😊

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Keerththan 😀
14:42 Aug 18, 2020

The ending was sweet. I loved it. A very sad story too. Wonderful job. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story " secrets don't remain buried?"

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Deidra Lovegren
16:07 Aug 18, 2020

Thank you, Keeththan! I would love to read your story ;)

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Maya Reynolds
13:24 Aug 18, 2020

Such a sweet story! I really enjoyed it!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:32 Aug 18, 2020

Thanks, Maya :)

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Brita Sherren
23:45 Aug 17, 2020

I like your use of Orville's point of view but the outside narrator -- it balanced nicely to give a very sympathetic view of Orville, and a sweetly loving perspective on his wife.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:59 Aug 17, 2020

Thanks, Brita 🌹

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Pamela Saunders
13:14 Aug 17, 2020

Beautifully portrayed, the agony of watching what can happen and all too often does. I hope that your mum will stay happy and dancing, bless her.

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Deidra Lovegren
13:46 Aug 17, 2020

Thanks for the good wishes. I am so interested in your upcoming writing! I'm glad you found Reedsy. Wonderful people here. So talented!

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Katina Foster
20:08 Aug 16, 2020

Your story made my heart ache - it hits a little close to home. You capture the myriad of emotions that go along with taking care of a loved one perfectly. I especially loved the ending. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go cry for a minute... (excellent work, in other words!)

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Deidra Lovegren
20:16 Aug 16, 2020

I wept the whole time I wrote it. [soapbox out] We need to talk about our elderly more and understand their needs. They are our aggregated treasure, and we need them. They've been so discarded by modern society for a vacuous youth culture.

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Katina Foster
20:40 Aug 16, 2020

I couldn't agree more!

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Thom Brodkin
14:20 Aug 15, 2020

I read the other comments before offering mine and was struck by your honesty about your mom. I think we all have two secret fears, one that we will be Ollie and the other that we will be Ollie's wife. I'm not sure which is worse. It seems impossible to me that you were able to pack so much into such a short story. I feel as if I know everything about their lives. I can see the two of them, their house, even their children. I am glad you are sharing your gift with us in this forum. It is definitively our pleasure.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:51 Aug 15, 2020

You are too kind, Mr. Brodkin. And I love you for it. :)

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Brittany Gillen
13:00 Aug 15, 2020

Deidra - Thank you for sharing your story. Oliver is a fantastic character. From his troublesome knees to his signature response of “All right then,” he is so genuine and recognizable. You capture his situation so beautifully, and I love all the small details you include like the doctor talking to the file folder. I honestly don’t have any suggestions for improvement. (Though I was sad he didn’t round up all the aspirin when they got home!) Well done!

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Deidra Lovegren
13:14 Aug 15, 2020

Oliver is my epic hero for sure. Man is going through pure hell. He’ll gather up the meds while his wife sleeps. Then he’ll sit quietly in the kitchen and weep.

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Stephen Closson
08:01 Aug 15, 2020

This story hit me straight in the feels, very well done!

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Deidra Lovegren
08:06 Aug 15, 2020

Based on my mom. She was the best mother ❤️

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Skye Thorne
23:47 Aug 14, 2020

Sweet but sad and wonderfully descriptive-I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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Deidra Lovegren
08:42 Aug 15, 2020

Thank you so much. Love makes us so vulnerable to pain.

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Mishka Stennett
18:43 Aug 14, 2020

I've been reading your stories- you're very talented.

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Deidra Lovegren
19:01 Aug 14, 2020

Thanks for your kind comments :)

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Christina Hall
22:01 Aug 10, 2020

Beautiful story and well written.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:25 Aug 10, 2020

Thanks :)

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07:09 Aug 10, 2020

Love it. Nostalgia-loaded, well-balanced, great subject masterfully depicted. I fail to see the connection to the prompt but this is unimportant as you have once again done a great job.Hope you are working on some novel. I would love to read it. Keep writing.

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Deidra Lovegren
09:37 Aug 10, 2020

Thanks for your continued support ❤️ I am working on a novel — yay! We will see how that goes. Prompt: Write a story about someone struggling to learn a skill that in no way comes naturally to them. Ollie is struggling to learn how to take care and cope with his wife, suffering from dementia.

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10:37 Aug 10, 2020

Makes sense

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Danielle Rose
22:25 Aug 09, 2020

Beautiful! There's so much empathy and humanity in your writing, Deidra. This one made me tear up for sure.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:36 Aug 09, 2020

Thanks for your comment ❤️ Alzheimer’s is pure hell on everyone.

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