Monday, August 2, 2010

butter & squirrels

schook...schook...the knife leaves a trail of butter across the face of the toast, small crumbs embedding in the remnants along the blade. rather than allow it to foul the tub, she runs it across her tongue slowly, savoring the creamy goodness. what he does not know will not hurt him, not that he ever notices.

movement in the window nips the edge of her attention drawing her to the sill. two squirrels scampering after one another beneath the bows of the oak trees, darting in the dappled light streaming through the tree limbs, they seem to be playing a game of tag. smiling at their ardor, her mind drifts to him.

richard had been quite the romantic the first twenty five years of their marriage, finding new ways to express his love for her. love poems scrawled in his hand were found regularly in places he knew she would look. she once handed one to the check out lady at the grocery store on accident, because he had written it on a dollar before secreting it away for her to find. . her favorite surprise had been the hike they took to find a candle lit table set for two in a clearing, strumming minstrels filling the air with soft music.

damn it all! why had it all been taken away? the inferno that was once their matrimonial bed, left her frostbitten and shivering each night, next to the cold slab of his body. lips that once whispered soliloquies bore a stillness found only in the dead. what had she done to deserve this? what sin had she committed that God would curse their household and what amends could she make. the last five years were like walking through hell barefoot.

tears spill freely across her cheeks, burning warm trails of conviction, blurring the scene through the window to a mottled green and grey. she had remained true and dutiful, never giving thought to another. when she made an oath it was forever. richard was still there, just locked away in some cell, his Ch√Ęteau d'If and if only she could find the key, he would love her again.

backing away from the window, she notices the toast she had prepared has grown cold and soggy with butter long melted. for brief moment, she ponders, once again, if he would even notice before dumping the contents of the plate into the trashcan by the cabinet, retrieving instead a portion of yogurt from the refrigerator.

guilt crawls around her shoulders for her weakness, thoughts running rampant like wild horses through her head, poisoning her heart. you do not deserve the richard you once had, their whispers fall heavy on her ears. perhaps not, perhaps this is all my fault, she answers, her confusion overwhelming her. she had taken their love for granted, and this was her penance, to live out her days under his shadow.

placing the bowl of yogurt on a tray with a gleaming silver spoon, she faces the hall that leads to him. it stretches before her, a long lonely mile, upon which she holds her breath for what seems inevitable.

"don't i always eat breakfast at 8:00?" his voices strikes her as soon as she pushes the door open.

"yes, i am sorry i am late," she shrinks, "i brought you yogurt today."

"well i like my breakfast at 8:00," he declares, then softly asks, "do i like yogurt?"

"yes, and it is strawberry, your favorite," she replies, an ease gently settling across her. slightly bowing, she places the tray in his lap, lifting her eyes to meet his expectantly.

"can't i have some juice as well?"

"i will be right back," she says, hoping to hold out what little peace she can.

turning toward the door, she hears, "i love you helen." her heart leaps as she looks back at him, her richard returned. she smiles, then watches his face twist into an angry grimace.

"who are you!? what are you doing in my house!" he yells, "helen call the police, there is an intruder! get out of my house...get out of my house..."

she can not flee fast enough, the clatter of the spoon on the floor, followed by the crash of the bowl and tray, chase her down the hall. entering the kitchen she collapses to the floor, sorrow gathering in damp puddles beneath her. wracking sobs shake her body. it is too much, the glimmer of hope snatched away only to be replaced by the sharp knife of his dementia.

if only this love could be taken away. it is easy when it is convenient, the catch is that love seldom is. clutching herself, she hums prayers to anyone who will listen, to bring richard back and give her strength until then. the cool floor lulls her sleep, where she dreams of happy things, like butter and squirrels.

this is a 10DOM post.

76 comments:

Claudia said...

think that's worse than dying - all memories wiped out with this illness and lovers become strangers. some years ago an elderly lady was walking back and forth the street in front of our house - desperate - we took her in and gave her some water - she had forgotten where she lived...my heart was bleeding - and after a while she luckily remembered the name of her husband so we could take her back to him..

Just Be Real said...

Interesting take off Brian. Memories are everything at times. Thank you for sharing.

Me said...

I hope and pray that I never suffer with Alzheimer's. The wish is not so much for myself, but for my family...

Like most people, someone close to me has suffered. It's horrible to be a witness to that.

Alan Burnett said...

Excellent piece, but it tugs at the heart like an anchor clawing the sea bottom. And that's what makes it an excellent piece.

Zuzana said...

It comes across as a love story really; even though the man she once loved is no longer there, the glimpses of what once was that she still sees once in a while keeps her going... That is what unconditional love is all about.
I hope your Monday is great dear Brian.;))
xo

Baino said...

I have a friend who no longer visits her mother because she isn't recognised. I couldn't do that. Never. Not ever. For richer, for poored, in sickness and in health. What I would have given for that opportunity.

TechnoBabe said...

Great writing about a real situation. How sad it would be to end up care giver to your lover who doesn't even know you any longer.

Birdie said...

maybe it is not only the unconditional love that makes her keep on going but the oath she ones gave him ... some morality she follows ... of course that alone would not be enough for her to carry on, so there is love in there too ... I love the beginning how you describe all the details, the squirrels ... so beautiful Brian

Pauline said...

your words can break my heart so easily...

willow said...

WT's mother suffered terribly with dementia for several years before she passed away this past spring. It is indeed a sharp knife.

Candie Bracci said...

sad story but well written :)

Vicki Lane said...

Dementia is the cruelest -- taking away the person we knew...or were.

Eva Gallant said...

That is so sad; and I know people going through this. It must be so devastating. Well done.

the walking man said...

As more of my generation come to deal with this disease either in their aged parents or their spouses I am often forced to think about what I would do if I were Richard and had a moment of clarity.

I know my answer. Suicide. Because the one who used to be loved by all reports has become nothing but a pain in the ass and i have never wanted to be where i was not wanted.

Jessie said...

you nailed this!

smiles,

Mama Zen said...

This is heartbreaking.

DJan said...

There is a wonderful book written from the POV of a person with early onset Alzheimer's: Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I wrote a review about it here if you are interested. You sure captured the feeling here in this post, Brian.

sagirl said...

I'm too moved for words... Is it my imagination that this occurs much more often nowadays? Or is it just that it is no longer hidden?

Tina said...

A beautiful portrait. Achingly sad, but very vivid.

Liza said...

Those opening words, and when she runs the blade across her tongue, WOW!!!!

When everything crashes to the ground, and she is fleeing, I had a very vivid slow motion picture running in my mind.

That would be so difficult to deal with. Do I have the spine required? I am not sure, not sure at all.

Thanks for sharing this.

ModernMom said...

This hit a little too close to home. My Grandfather suffered so terribly and yo captured it so well. My heart ached for your Helen...

TALON said...

Heartwrenching and beautifully expressed, Brian.

Pseudo said...

well done on a theme that scares me... with all the migraines i've had, my fear is becoming like richard.

The Urban Cowboy said...

This would be a very difficult situation for anyone to face. Beautiful memories of them 'before' shadowing a present without their presence.

dulce said...

Well, some connection, may be...between my post and yours... But nothing is exactly the same... except for the suffering it brings..

If you please could go back to my comments. there was something I explained I need you to know
Thanks Brian!
;)
Hugs
D.

Kay said...

oh, Brian, you continue to break my heart...

always your images linger...

placing self right there in that spot and today, it hurts.

you just keep braking my heart.

SuziCate said...

Excellent. Having the one you love without the memory of love is worse than not having them at all.

The Girl from Cherry Blossom Street said...

When someone you love has gone to a place where he/she can't be reached anymore...it's like living with a ghost...

AmyLK said...

oh my! Poor Helen. And Richard. To loose your memories and love. well written brian!

g-man said...

Great point of view on this terrible condition Brian...
You make me proud to know you..G

Susan Deborah said...

I did not expect Dementia at all. You master story-teller. I wish I could give her the key to her lost love :) All of us love love, isn't it?

Joy always,
Susan

secret agent woman said...

It's a cruel, cruel disease that steals the mind before the body.

JStar said...

Having my grandmother who had alzheimer's..this breaks my heart....

Jen Chandler said...

Brian you always get me in the gut. Memory loss is worse than death. Beautiful prose as always. You always paint such a vivid picture.

Jen

Steven Anthony said...

I worked with Alzheimers patients at a nursing ho,me....so sad, you really hit the emotion right on the mark.

Meeko Fabulous said...

I am in tears. My grandma used to have dementia before she passed. It was hard on her and so much harder on all of us. I still have very fond memories of my grandma though. :)

natalee said...

Oh my.. this was heart wrenching... thats why sometimes.. i pray for a quick heart attack in old age..instead of making my loved ones suffer... my Nana had slight dimentia n the end and it was soooo hard...

drybottomgirl said...

So very touching. You truly are a gifted writer, I could hear the bowl clattering as he threw it. Dimentia has take a close friend of my mother's. This lady was so vibrant and full of life, now she sleeps all day and doesn't even know her children. Sometimes life is just so heavy....sigh

Tom said...

kind of lost me halfway through, but you pulled it together good at the end. subtle choice for the muse!

Maggie said...

:( So many people go through this it is really sad, and we never know when it will hit home. Nice write.

The Empress said...

That must be just what it is like, too. I had a friend in college, whose boyfriend was in a motorcycle accident and suffered significant brain damage. He didn't even know her, but, for the 3 years I knew her, she was a daily faithful in his life.

It was so sad to see her life swallowed up in his.

You captured what she was living perfectly.

ds said...

The strain on the primary caregiver of a person with Alzheimer's is unbearable. You have caught that beautfiully here. Poor Helen. Poor Richard. Sharp knives and buttery soft language. Thank you.

Ed Pilolla said...

sad and scary and well told.

Daniel said...

This one left me crying. I too live with a shadow from a past life. Nothing I do or say will make it talk with me or look at me or make love to me like it used to. Maybe I don't fully understand the full scope of the scene you presented, but I do think that there are parallels.

Emmanuel Ibok said...

When love fades, the relationship becomes a living hell. You have a very good story telling ability. Have you thought of writing a novel if you dont have one already...

Have a lovely week and a fulfilled August. Sorry for your loss.

Cheers!

Emmanuel Ibok said...

When love fades, the relationship becomes a living hell. You have a very good story telling ability. Have you thought of writing a novel if you dont have one already...

Have a lovely week and a fulfilled August. Sorry for your loss.

Cheers!

sage said...

Sorrowful words that are too real for me right now.... I've seen this play out with my parents as my mother alzehemier's progressed.

Amanda said...

This left me totally teary!! Awesome writing...Hope you have a wonderful week and sorry about your loss my friend.

blueviolet said...

I feel so sorry for people who experience this with their loved ones. It's so painful to see the slide.

Pat said...

Very well written account of living with an alzheimer patient, doubly hard if it is someone you love.

This just broke my heart!

THE BEATY said...

Interesting story. I just read a novel that for some reason this post made me think of. Its about a man who loses his memory every 3 hours. Its truely facinating

Tony Single said...

Oh man, that gutted me. Not even the squirrels could bring a smile to my face. Beautifully written tragedy, Brian.

Mmm said...

Wow. that is absolutely brilliant. I was gripped all the way through. could feel right along with here what she would have felt. Bittersweet memories mixed with horror and incredible weight... Love is indeed seldom easy.

Cindy said...

Oh Brian, I KNOW Helen, I know her story so well.

Magpie said...

Oh, Brian, this one made my heart ache. Too sad, but oh so true. Which one suffers more? What a tragic prison. Very well expressed.

Help! Mama Remote... said...

Wow!!!That really help me to see in the life of someone going through this. I hear of it all the time. You painted such a clear picture.

Goofball said...

how profoundly sad

Valerie said...

Incredible writing, Brian. It sure jerks the heart strings.

Mr. Stupid said...

This was great writing Brian. Very sad but so true.

LadyFi said...

Such an intense and moving poem. Sums up life for many husbands and wives with spouses that have dementia. It's never easy, as I remember from my own grandfather.

Jill said...

Brian...this is amazing. I am filled with such melancholy after reading it...so many people live Helen's life. I am so sad for all the Helen's...and wonder...would I be as faithful to Richard as she has been? I hope so.

mama-face said...

ah. I have much experience with relatives and dementia and alzheimers. Too much. Also, My daughter works with brain injury patients and their personality can change in an instant. Once a patient punched her in the face and then was the nicest man ever the next time he saw her. No memory of the punching. Nurses are not compensated enough for sure.

Oops. Sorry for the tangent. You always strike a chord for me.

Caty said...

so sad for her. alzheimer's/dementia is such a terrible disease. It's impossible to see the decline. this was so perfectly written, though.

heartspell said...

A very tragic disease for sure...a true test of love for the one left behind. heartspell

Mighty M said...

When I was in college I worked on a study involving weight training and the elderly....I trained with an older gal who had dementia. Every time I saw her she would "remember" about her daughter who had died many years earlier and re-tell it to me over and over again. Just heartbreaking.

The Retired One said...

So many people have to endure this--the cruelest of diseases..it affects them but more than that, it is tragic for the families... You have portrayed this so well, Brian.

JamieDedes said...

Beautiful . . . sensitive . . . painful . . . illustration of life with this disease. So sad and lonely. Fine work, Brian.

Syd said...

Such a sad thing. I hope that she will find some solace at some point. He is not there anymore except for brief glimpses. Very sad.

PattiKen said...

This is heartbreaking, as is the illness it describes. It must seem like such a betrayal of life to have one's lifelong love stolen like this. It makes me sad just reading about it.

Okie said...

Very cool story. I love the emotion and dialog. I also really liked the use of lowercase throughout. It kept the attitude subdued. You really evoked emotions and memories from me (and likely anyone else who has dealt with situations like those).

Nicely done.

noexcuses said...

Beautifully written! I watched my grandmother, and then my father, slowly deteriorate. I think you captured the emotions of the caretaker very well!

Siobhan said...

This is amazing. I thought it was about love being temporary until "Do I like yogurt?" Really, really well written. I love it.

moondustwriter said...

The question - who suffers more???

Well written Bri. This one should be in a magazine

JeffScape said...

Haha! This is what I was talking about when I mentioned you needed to "keep us there." We get to bask in the beauty, then the confusion, before you move past it. Here (unlike in Wild Ginger), the butter and squirrels hold resonance.

Love your stylistic progress. Keep it up. And send me some long-form!

Marla said...

My father lived with us the last four years of his life. We lived with his dementia. It would break my heart to watch him come and go.

JeffScape said...

Butter!

Squirrels!

Winner!