It's Ok to Forget Sometimes

Submitted into Contest #44 in response to: Write a story that starts with two characters saying goodbye.... view prompt

6 comments

General

I might be crazy. In fact, I most likely am. Who else works with the dying? Who else creates relationships with families in the hardest time of their lives? I met my husband on the day I came to care for him before his death, six months later we were married, and six months after that he died. My best friend also is currently dying, and I have to watch it. All in the hospice line of work. I guess it isn't recommended that we create intimate relationships with the ones passing, but I think they are ones who need it most, and boy, do I have an interesting life because of it.

I think my favorite story to tell (other than my own,) was of a little old lady named Mrs. Smith who lived in Virginia. Her story is not meant to be sad. It's not about looming death, but instead about life before her death. She had long silvery white hair that laid limply on her shoulders, and her body seemed to sag around her. Her eyes remained sparkly brown and bright, and her mind remained intact, until three months before I met her. Then, from what I've heard, she started forgetting things, and she was diagnosed with dementia soon after. She declined greatly until she couldn't remember her husband or her grandchildren and great grandchildren. A week before I was assigned to her, her husband died.

To give you more knowledge of this story, there was also a teenager involved. She was a fifteen-year-old named Bethany Carina Smith. She was old Mrs. Smith's great granddaughter. At that point she lived in West Virginia. Her mother told me the following story.

"My little girl, Bethany, was riding in her friend's father's car, with her friend, Ana. They were coming home from a shopping spree at the mall. Her father had stopped at a Mexican bar across the street, and had a shot too many of vodka. He wasn't drunk, just woozy. He says that everything became momentarily blurry or black or something, and he couldn't see the car coming straight towards him. Next thing I know, I was visiting my daughter in the ER, and she was diagnosed with Retrograde Amnesia, or the loss of access to past memories. She didn't remember anything from her past, not even her name or me."

There the woman had stopped talking. She cried and excused herself. Soon Bethany and her parents had moved back to Virginia to be with their family.

The first day I saw little Mrs. Smith, she was staring at me with her brown eyes. I walked her to her and smiled, trying to present myself as gentle. Some of my past Dementia patients had been almost aggressive and didn't want me to be near them. But Mrs. Smith just stared. She tried to get up.

"I wish I had something to give you. Maybe Ice cream or something." She had said.

"Oh, no. That's fine. How are you?" I asked, trying to be friendly.

"Oh, just fine." She smiled at me. I was amazed at the amount of friendliness one forgetful little lady could shine.

I smiled back. The next week Bethany Smith and her mother payed a visit. Bethany's head was bruised and bloodied, her arm was in a cast, yet she still smiled. She smiled and looked at me innocently.

"How are you Bethany?" I asked. She didn't flinch when I used her name. She had never met me before, and didn't know who I was, yet she still didn't care.

"I am good. Did I know you? Before the accident I mean." She asked pleasantly.

"No," I chuckled, "You didn't forget about me. You never knew me. I'm helping take care of your great grandmother."

"Grandma Indy? My mother told me about her. Apparently I used to love her dearly, I'm sure I still will." It humbled me to hear her use of language. 'Used to love her' just broke me down. What could it be like to lose your memory and have someone tell you who you are?

"Oh, so you call you her Grandma Indy? Should I call her that too?" I asked. I hadn't heard any personal names that anyone used for Old Mrs. Smith.

"Yes, I call her that. Mom told me to. Call her whatever you like." From that moment on I called the old lady Grandma Indy. She just fit it. I knew her full name was Indigo, but Indy was her name to me and everyone else.

A month went by. I made weekly visits to the little old blue townhouse. My relationship with the family grew. Bethany was the one who really interested me. She seemed so strong in spite of her story. One evening before I left she walked me to my car. She had just happened to visit the home then.

"Mrs. Cook?" She asked.

"Yes, sweetie?" I answered.

"I don't know how to deal with truth and reality. I have forgotten so much, and I'm afraid that I won't be able to live up to my past self. You have dealt with so many patients that forget things, can you help me?" Her eyes were so innocent, so helpless. I wanted to sob on the spot.

"Honey, I've dealt with more forgetful patients than you could ever imagine. People with short term and long term memory loss, retrograde amnesia, and more. But to give advice to a person struggling, I'd say to go to another person, also struggling. I'd say go to your great grandma."

"But she doesn't even remember me, let alone I recognize her. How could two strangers that have known each other my whole life, help each other?" She looked away, staring at the green grass beneath us.

"You'd be surprised at the wisdom of a forgetful patient." At that I gave her a side hug, careful for her injuries, and slid into my car.

On the way home I pondered my conversation with Bethany. Did I give her the right advice? She reminded me of another teenager girl I had taken care of three years before this event. She was dying of terminal cancer, yet she stayed sweet and kind. She never questioned or cried around me. I'm sure she did when I wasn't around, but that took big guts. Her name had been Anya. I had watched as her mama held her head. Her last breath in and out. The beeping of the machines, the stillness. There was no weeping right away, just quiet. I shook my head, I didn't like to remember the deaths of my patients, just their lives. Their personalities, their individual hopes, peaces, and ways of getting through their trials. I was so glad Bethany wasn't one of my patients, I couldn't stand to lose her. She had become my friend.

The next week I walked into Bethany sitting next to Grandma Indy's chair. They were in deep conversation, and I hated to break it. I slipped into the corner. Indy saw me but didn't say anything.

"...Grandma Indy, what do you think I should do?" Tears were in her eyes, and she looked intently at her.

"I've learned one thing that will always stay in this brain that loses so much. It's ok to forget sometimes."

June 01, 2020 18:31

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

6 comments

Kristine Murdock
01:21 Jun 04, 2020

I love the sweetness and some of the bittersweet reality. Great job, Rose!

Reply

Elaina Goodnough
01:22 Jun 04, 2020

Thanks Kristine! I have experiences with my own great Grandma and grandma who both have dementia. Some of the lines and personality traits were directly from them! Thanks again!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Vrishni Maharaj
01:11 Jun 02, 2020

Captivating story! You write beautifully💕

Reply

Elaina Goodnough
01:13 Jun 02, 2020

Aww, thanks so much! I read your other stories and you do too!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Unknown User
03:57 Jul 08, 2020

<removed by user>

Reply

Elaina Goodnough
18:11 Jul 08, 2020

Thank you so much, Rose! (Ah, I see why I have such an awesome name! You have a wonderful flower-y name as well!) I love that you took time to read one of my stories, and had such good things to say about it. I've had two family members suffer from dementia, and I have had experience with Hospice workers, so it felt right and relatively easy. I like writing stories that might not have happened before, and might not be fully realistic, but could happen. Anyways, thanks so much! -Rose

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply