Tara woke up in a dark room. “Where am I?” As she sat up on the side of the bed, a motion detector turned on the light. She looked around at the unfamiliar quarters. “Where am I?” she asked again. She looked at the clock on the bed stand. It was 7:30AM. What time did I go to sleep last night? It was all a blur, to her. The urge to pee was strong, so she found the bathroom to relieve herself.
Afterwards, she came out and went to the front door and opened it. A long hallway met her. She looked up and down it, but couldn’t decide which way to go, so she stepped back into her room. She decided to sit down in a chair and wait. Maybe he’ll come today. Dad called and said he was on the way here.
Tara went to the dressing table and began to put on some makeup. She looked in the mirror and was startled. Who’s that person looking back at me? As Tara began to raise her hand, the image on the other side of the mirror followed every move she made. She touched her face and found every wrinkle she saw in the mirror. Tara was amazed. Somehow, that person in the mirror, was me. How could someone so old, look like me? Confusion overtook her and she sat back down in the chair.
Soon, there was a knock on the door and a young lady walked in. “Good morning, Tara. Happy birthday.”
Tara looked surprised. “It’s my birthday?”
“Yes. Today’s October 12, 2012. You’re sixty-one years old.”
Tara became confused again. “I don’t understand. I’m twenty-three. I just started working for the Carrier Corporation. I just heard from my father Alex is coming soon. Have you seen him? Have you seen Alex?”
The young lady took Tara’s hand. “It’s okay, Tara. Calm down. I’m sure, Alex will come soon. Sit down, please. I’ll get you something to eat.”
Tara sat down, as the young lady went to the hallway to bring in a food tray. “It’s been a week,” she said. “He should be here anytime.”
The young lady sat down next to Tara and helped her with her breakfast. When she finished, the lady stood up. “Okay, Tara, I’m going to leave you for now. If you need anything, you know where the red button is, don’t you?”
Tara looked at a large button next to the front door and pointed at it.
“That’s right. If you need anything at all, just press it.” The young lady left Tara alone in the room.
“It’s been a week. He should be here anytime.” Tara sat down and continued to wait.
It was raining lightly when Alex pulled up in the parking lot of Newman’s Nursing Home. He stepped in quickly, trying to avoid the rain.
As he walked in, a receptionist smiled and kindly greeted him. “Good morning, sir. How may I help you?”
The smile was infectious, and Alex returned it. “And good morning to you. If it’s possible, I would like to visit Tara Turner.”
The receptionist looked puzzled.
“Is there something wrong?” asked Alex.
The receptionist shook her head. “Oh no. Nothing at all. It’s just been so long since anyone has visited her. We were wondering if she had any anyone who cared for her.” She blushed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. Here, let me contact Susan and she if Tara’s up for visitors. Who can I say is calling?”
The receptionist eyes were wide open. “You’re the Alex she talks about? But you’re so young. We thought he would be someone closer to her age.”
Alex feigned a smile and lied. “No, that would be my father. They were quite close when they were younger.”
“Oh, I see,” she said. “Please forgive me. I’ll let Susan know Tara has a visitor.” She picked up the phone and whispered in it.
Alex sat down and waited. Within five minutes, a young lady approached him. “Hi, I’m Susan.” She shook hands with Alex. “I’ve been taking care of Tara for the last year. As you may know, she has Alzheimer Disease. It’s advanced to a point where she has difficulty distinguishing the past from the present and her short-term memory is limited. She seems to be having a good day today, so she may have visitors. Please, follow me.”
Susan led Alex down the hall and knocked on a door. “Please wait a moment, while I check on her.” She stepped inside, then a moment later, she called Alex in. As Alex stepped in, she stepped out. “I’ll leave you two alone. If you need anything, just press the red button next to the door.”
The door closed behind him and he was left face to face with the love of his life. His heart broke when he saw her. Her soul was trapped in the shell of an old woman.
Tara immediately recognized him. “Alex! You made it. Dad said you were coming to see me.” She hugged him and kissed him fervently. “Oh, I missed you so much. each day you were gone was such a battle to go through, but now, we’re together again.”
She let go of him. “Come, let me fix you something to eat.” She started to walk in the room, but then stopped. “Alex, where did the kitchen go?”
A tear rolled down Alex’s cheek. “Don’t worry about it, Tara. I’m not hungry. Let’s just sit down and talk.”
Tara obliged and began the talking. “I know you talked to Dad, but did he tell you he was getting a promotion? The company that owns Seven Oaks wants him to transfer to their main headquarters in New York City. Isn’t that great? And Carrier wants to fast-track me into upper management. I’m so happy. You know what I want to do? I want to walk to the duck pond. Come on, let’s go.”
Alex squeezed her hands. I’m sorry, Tara, not today. Today isn’t good.”
The smile left Tara’s face. “You’re right. Daddy’s sick. How could I think of going anywhere when Daddy’s sick? Mommy called for the doctor, but he hasn’t arrived yet. I need to see Daddy.” Tara stood and walked to her bedroom.
Alex didn’t know how to handle the situation. All he could do was follow her and make sure she didn’t hurt herself.
When Tara walked in the bedroom, looked on the bed, but Daddy wasn’t there. “Daddy! Where are you?” She turned towards the dresser mirror and froze. Why are you still here? You have no business in my house. Get out!”
Alex couldn’t understand what was upsetting Tara. He called to her in his most soothing voice. “Tara? Are you okay? Is there something I can help you with?”
“Make her leave, Alex. There’s a ghost in my mirror, who torments me. Make her leave!”
Alex’s heart was breaking. How could anyone stand, seeing the ones they love, slowly disappear from existence? Alex wanted to leave so badly, but he didn’t. Tara was like a ship being tossed in a storm, with it mast torn away. He knew he had to be her anchor.
“Alex, I’m so confused. I see things and hear things, but I can’t understand what anything means.” Tara began to cry. “Alex, please. Help me.”
“Tara, listen to me. I want to take you on a little trip. Is that okay with you?”
Tara nodded her head. “Yes, Alex. let’s do that. Let’s go somewhere.”
“Alright. Now, I want you to close your eyes.” Tara did as she was told. “Good. Now, take a deep breath.” As Tara breathed in deeply, Alex grabbed her arms and closed his eyes at the same time. Time stood still for them.
When Tara opened her eyes, she found herself standing in a field, which seemed to have no end. But more than that, her mind was completely clear. She turned to her side and saw Alex standing next to her. She reached out and held his hand. She felt the warmth of his skin. “I’m not dreaming.” She looked at the view in wonderment. “What is this place?” she asked.
Alex looked back at her. She looked as if she was twenty years old again. It was nice to see her for who she truly is.
“It’s hard to explain this place. It’s a place to come for rest, but also a place to reflect. That is why we are here now. So, tell me. How are you doing?”
“How can I explain it? My thoughts haven’t been this clear in a long time. It’s as if I was never diagnosed with Alzheimer disease.” Tara looked hopefully at Alex. “Am I cured?”
Before Alex could say anything, the look of disappointment on his face, answered the question for her. “Of course not. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”
Alex glared at her. Please, don’t think that way. Regret and despair will only lead you to eternal suffering. Always keep faith and hope in your heart. Remember, someday, when your time on Earth comes to an end, you’ll end up here again. Then, you will be able to move on to a higher plane of life, filled with peace and tranquility.”
“I trust you, Alex, but must I go back to that life, the one where I feel like I’m trapped in a coffin and buried six feet under the ground?”
“I’m sorry, Tara. I spent many years showing people how they can change their lives, but at the same time, I learned that people cannot escape their fate. Sadly, your fate is living with a devastating disease.”
Tara slumped her shoulders in defeat. “I understand,” she said. “Do we have time to talk, before I have to go back?”
“Yes, we have a few minutes.”
Not wanting to waste a moment, Tara started in. “As you know, I was picked up at Carrier and was on my way to upper management. I was on a team working on a multimillion-dollar deal. Unfortunately, it fell through and since I was the junior member of the team, I was their scapegoat. They fired me, but fortunately, I was picked up at Bristol Laboratories and I stayed there until I was diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease. So, here I am today, no body, just a soul.” Tara looked at Alex with uncertainty. “Is it time to go?”
“Soon, I’m afraid. Before we go, I just wanted to tell you a love you very much and I missed having you in my life.”
Tara embraced and hugged him tightly. “You think you’re the only one? I waited for you for a while, but deep in my heart of hearts, I knew you had a calling, and I couldn’t be a part of it. I let you go, hoping you would return one day and finally, you did. I love you too, Alex and I’ll carry that love with me for the rest of my life.”
As she released Alex from her embrace, the light dimmed to darkness. She opened her eyes and found herself back in her room. “Well, Alex, are we going or not? The ducks aren’t going to wait forever.”
Alex smiled weakly. “I’m sorry Tara, I’m feeling a little tired. Maybe we can do this tomorrow. Is that okay with you?”
Tara was disappointed. Alright, we’ll do it tomorrow. Don’t do what you did last time and make me wait for a week.”
Alex laughed. “Don’t worry, I won’t.” He opened the door and called back. I almost forgot. Happy birthday.”
When the door closed, a distant thought crept to the front of her mind. "Who was this Alex and what was his story?"