The Removal of Rosalie

Submitted into Contest #137 in response to: Write a story about someone forced out of their home.... view prompt

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Sad

Rosalie's fondest dream was marrying her high school sweetheart and starting a family. Faced with the prospect of the Vietnam War draft potentially separating their intertwined hearts, a simple ceremony at their local community center linked their loving souls legally. Against all odds, he returned to her after two long years, battle scars tucked deep within his psyche. They started their family in Georgia military housing, but eventually saved enough to load their meager belongings into a rusty station wagon, trekking from the sweltering south to the freshness of the west coast.


Their two sons thrived in the coastal breezes and grew into responsible adults with families and children of their own. She doted on the grandkids, her very existence bolstered by their almost daily visits. She cooked for them, got down on the floor- despite her increasingly creaky knees- to play with them, and took them on long walks where they excitedly caught polliwogs to add to their backyard pond. She hung their messy art on the fridge, framing their more valiant efforts, and painstakingly hand-lettered cards to each of them for every birthday, graduation and Christmas. Over the years, she and her soulmate aged and slowed. They collected wrinkles and allowed pungent mentholated creams to seep into their skin, easing the pinches and aches that plagued them.


Before she knew it, her husband had succumbed to his ailments, and she found herself alone, rattling around a house that suddenly seemed too large. As her grandchildren aged, her sadness grew. Where they had once dropped by several times a week to excitedly report on their school achievements and activities, they now called occasionally… when they remembered. Her cards to them began to take three times as long to write, and her painstaking lettering grew wobbly. Quick jaunts to the backyard to pluck bright, plump lemons from her tree had become protracted tours that sadly determined weeds had truly taken over.


The grandchildren left for college and returned for visits only occasionally. Her younger son moved incrementally further away as his position in his company climbed. The older son dropped by each week, and increased the frequency of his calls to his mother in an attempt to fill the lonely void.


Despite his efforts, she withered.


Her television became her constant companion, chattering away at her as she sat, slumped in position on the sagging sofa. Her once bright complexion sallowed and her hair hung as limp as the leaves of her forgotten houseplants. A plodding trip down the long hall to the toilet seemed a veritable journey and the required chore of bed making seemed to take all morning. She spent her remaining time painstakingly vacuuming immaculate carpets, just for something to do.


And then the falls began.


Her older son insisted he purchase an emergency fall alert button, despite her protests, but she found ways to resist his efforts. The button rested unused on her nightstand, tucked into a drawer, or discarded in various corners. Her son suggested a stylish walker with a cushioned seat and a sporty design, and she resisted.


The falls continued.


As bruises bloomed and her driving became alarming to all those present on the roadways, her son attempted to convince her that remaining alone was a dangerous idea. He offered his services for grocery shopping, meal preparation and suggested a housekeeper. Her independence and pride roared to the forefront, and, as she pushed away help, her loneliness expanded.


Then the dreams began.


Her husband visited her in nighttime visions, and she reveled in the reunion. Her grandkids were little again, and turned to her once more to fulfill their childish desires. She provided stickers and popsicles, grinning at their sticky faces and held their tiny hands as the love of her life looked on. But every morning, she awakened. Confused, the loss of what once was recurred, and left her with a feeling of despair. She cried over her husband being gone and the loss of her grandbabies’ youth. She sat, slumped and saddened, and re-experienced the losses acutely each time the dreams appeared.


She forgot to eat some days, her desire for fresh fruits and veggies as withered as her skin. She numbly munched on stale cheese puffs, fallen tidbits taking up residence under her slipper soles. She sat, slack-jawed with vacant eyes, watching once humorous shows repeatedly, starting them over again once her wandering mind returned to the here and now.


Then the hallucinations started.


She glanced up, surprised to see her loving husband seated beside her. She pinched herself but he remained beside her. She begged him to update her on everything he had been doing during his time away, and she filled him in on how she had spent her lonely times without him. He smiled at her lovingly, a familiar twinkle in his eye, as his image faltered, wavered, and then disappeared. Her heart broke again. Over the next months, he began appearing to her all over the house, even though his physical being had been gone over ten years. He brushed by her in the hall, leaned over her shoulder in the kitchen, and took her hand tenderly during television reruns of shows they once watched together.


Disturbing images materialized as well. Specks on the carpet falsely took the form of beetles, making her shudder. Mice appeared to run straight through the walls and doors, and human strangers crawled after them, attempting to herd and catch the whiskered invaders. Though these visions bothered her, joy snuck in as well. Her grandchildren seemingly agreed to spend the night, but when she plodded down the hall to check on them, she found their rooms empty, the bedclothes undisturbed. She sat awake for hours, fretting over where her grandchildren had gone, when in reality, they had not come over at all. Her older son began to visit almost daily, alarmed by her hallucinations and wanting to comfort her during the repetitive bouts of bewilderment and subsequent grief.


Confusion became the norm.


She couldn’t remember her computer passwords, her cellphone transformed into a complicated object and the television remote never seemed to work for her anymore. She called her older son several times a week, often just a few minutes after he left from a visit with her, to report her television had stopped working again. He tirelessly turned around, returning to check the offending device. It was always simple. She was holding the remote with the business end turned away from the T.V., she had pressed pause, or the television was off completely. She seemed befuddled by the electronic issues and became vaguely belligerent about the ease of solving said problems. Her son patiently worked through each issue with her, masking his outward concern for her decline.


He conferred with immediate family, asking for accounts of their experiences with her over time. Their reports all revealed evidence of a sharp decline in mobility and memory. Once again, he tried to point out the advantages of downsizing into a smaller home better suited to her declining mobility. She continued to refuse, unable to imagine a life away from her home filled with fond memories. Over her objections, he purchased and delivered a walker, complete with a comfortably cushioned seat and a shiny red paintjob. She parked it in the corner, glowering at it, and at him for bringing it. Refusing to utilize it, and denying the need for it, her falls continued.


After sustaining dozens of blooming bruises and multiple angry lacerations, her older son convinced her to visit her family doctor for the first time in years. She seemed confused by his insistence she be reassessed, since she was positive she saw the doctor a mere six months prior. Sadly, four years had actually passed, and the easy fix once proposed for her balance and mobility issue was no longer on the table. At the conclusion of a cluster of assessments and tests, the concerned doctor turned to her son and stated fervently, “Take her keys away. Now.” She protested angrily, seeing her last major mode of independence wrenched away. The doctor addressed her, and the son listened intently. The doctor said dementia had set in, and the hallucinations would only worsen. Driving would only bring eventual tragedy, and living alone was no longer an option.


She slumped, defeated.


Her son’s mind raced, making immediate plans to move in with her temporarily. On the drive home she screamed and recoiled, hallucinating a truck had pulled out in front of their car. He reassured her the best he could, and helped her back into her home.


The next weeks were a flurry of strangers. Distant family members crawled out of the woodwork, concerned about the sudden change in her abilities. Therapists and nurses swarmed, distressed over her high blood pressure and low heart rate. She loved the company and the attention, but detested the fuss. She wanted people to surround her, without her heath and “condition” being the center of attention. She reluctantly used the walker, finding no alternative in the presence of so many people. She was ordered to stop getting out of bed unassisted, but she brushed off their concerns. Her son installed cameras in her room to alert him of any falls, but she frustratingly thwarted his efforts by masking her movements with an extra loud television. When incontinence became the hourly norm, she still refused to utilize the absorbent material to save her clothing and protect her papery skin. Adult protective services began paying weekly visits to her home, but she didn’t understand why. She resisted all the help her son had hired and grew weary of people always hovering around her. Her energy waned and her anger multiplied.


Her son approached gently.


She seemed baffled by the offer of a car ride, but was excited to get out of the house. She couldn’t manage her shoes on her own anymore, nor the buttons and zippers on her coat. She clutched her purse tightly, unaware it was virtually empty and her son had been handling the bills for months after discovering she was forgetting to pay them. He wheeled her into the daylight; she had required a shift into a wheelchair weeks before.


She blinked, childlike.


She rode quietly, trusting her son’s skill behind the wheel. She admired the gradual shift in scenery from her crowded urban neighborhood to the gently rolling hills of the countryside. The corners of her mouth turned up slightly as she made nonsensical comments about what she saw out her window. The bright blue of the sky and the gentle green of the tender grass blanketing the rolling hills was a stark contrast to the darkness her son anticipated.


As the car stopped, she blinked a few times, confused about where they were. She struggled through the fog in her brain to remember what her son had told her about why they were there and where “there” actually was.


He helped her into the wheelchair, careful to avoid the tender bruises from her most recent fall. The staff greeted her with wide smiles and welcoming faces, but she regarded them suspiciously. She didn’t see anything familiar there until they rounded several corners and entered a room she hadn’t seen before. Her bathrobe from home was draped over the footboard, and her favorite plush duvet blanketed the small bed.


Confusion bloomed.


She couldn’t quite put together why some of her familiar belongings were in this strange room with these strange people. Her son helped her into a chair by the window and tried to explain where they were. She could not understand why he told her this was her new home and someone would help her with all of her needs. She was tired from the drive and wanted to go home with her son. He shook his head, feeling sadness and shame over her disorientation. He had hoped the transition would go smoothly and wanted only for his mother to be as safe and happy as possible. Irritation strained her face. She couldn’t pull herself out of the chair on her own anymore and he hugged her, reminding her for the tenth time he would return tomorrow. Her bewildered expression followed him out the door and the lock clicked quietly behind him, deafening him nonetheless.


He drove slowly back to her former home, holding back tears and anger. He braced himself to sift through a lifetime of memories, readying her house to be sold. He hoped she would forgive him for moving her to the memory care facility, knowing the explanation was lost in her cloudy brain mere minutes after delivery. He asked her silently to absolve him of his guilt over removing her from home, and prayed her discomfort would give way to ignorant bliss. He parked in the driveway and sat for a bit in his vehicle, avoiding the inevitable. He sighed, resolved, and approached the house. He opened the door to an intense wave of emptiness and stepped inside.

March 17, 2022 18:26

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7 comments

Tommy Goround
22:17 Aug 08, 2022

It's been 30 weeks... Can we get more? More stories, please. The voice is endearing, the character engaging. The resolution was classic. Clapping.

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Craig Westmore
20:02 Mar 24, 2022

Very well written story, Sylvia. You did a great job showing Rosalie's gradual decline. Not an easy read for me because it brings back some difficult memories but you captured the moment with dignity and grace. I felt sorry for her and her sons - a difficult time for them as well.

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Sylvia Courtner
20:47 Mar 24, 2022

I'm sorry this brings up difficult memories for you, and I can understand why it was not an easy read. I think writing in general is a bit of therapy for me, as it helps me sort out the emotional chaos of a particular situation into something a bit more linear. Thank you for taking the time to both read and comment.

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Susannah Meghans
16:36 Mar 24, 2022

This was very well written and captured the process of her life, aging and the progression of her disease. I went through myself with my great aunt and it was very hard when we had to move her out of her house as well. At the end, with the older sons perspective, I could understand exactly what his emotions.

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Sylvia Courtner
17:58 Mar 24, 2022

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm sure there are so many of us who are members of this awful club, watching parents or other family members age and decline. I hope I was able to capture, without going into too much detail, the confusion and sadness that is present for the people on both sides of these matters.

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Sharon Hancock
01:39 Mar 22, 2022

Wow! This is beautifully written and such a creative and unique way to follow the prompt! I liked so much of it but this sentence in particular caught my eye: “They collected wrinkles and allowed pungent mentholated creams to seep into their skin, easing the pinches and aches that plagued them.” I can feel and smell that sentence. Great job! Thanks for sharing this.

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Sylvia Courtner
16:46 Mar 22, 2022

Thank you for taking the time to not only read my story, but comment on it. I'm always open to comments and suggestions. I've been enjoying your work as well. : )

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