[Note: Taken from a chapter in my soon-to-be-released thriller novel, NOT SO DONE. I share it here because it sticks in my head like a favorite song and it’s loverly]
The gravel driveway is long and winding up to the Riverdale Assisted Living Center in Scarsdale. Rich gets out of his Crown Vic and takes a minute to take in the puffy morning clouds doing their slow dance in the early Fall sky. The scent of freshly cut grass lingers in the air. Life is short and bittersweet, he thinks. Scarsdale is one of the most affluent towns in America, not that it matters in this case. What matters is that it’s close to where his sister Margaret lives, so she can check on Mom regularly. Rich feels pangs of guilt for visiting so infrequently, but being assigned with DHS to California and then D.C. has made it harder.
Rich’s mother, Alice, is in Stage 5 Of her Alzheimer’s journey. Her trip down this path is mostly pleasant but sometimes scary and confusing. She has good days and bad, according to Samantha, her nurse. There is no earthly light at the end of this road. Hopefully, there is a divine one.
Rich checks in with Samantha, “How is she today?”
“Today is a good day. She may remember you. Why don’t you see if she’ll go outside? The morning is cool enough and the fresh air may do her some good.”
Rich takes Samantha’s hand, “Thanks for being so kind to her.”
“It’s not hard. She’s a sweetheart.”
“I miss the way she was, but I’m sure you hear that all the time.”
“Getting older is about adapting, Alzheimer’s or not.”
“I understand. It’s just a loss. That’s all.”
“Yes, and despite the series of losses we suffer from age, there is much left to appreciate and enjoy. Try focusing on that.” Samantha gestures towards the hall, “She’s in her room.”
“I will,” Rich says. Samantha pivots and saunters towards the reception desk. Rich can’t help noticing the gentle sway of her hips.
He heads down the hall and knocks gently on the open door to Alice’s room. His mother is in a rocking chair, attempting to knit something, which looks like a tangle of knots. She looks up, “Rich, you’re home from school. How was your day?”
Rich forces a smile, “It was good, Mom. Would you like to go for a walk outside? It’s an extra-special day.”
She smiles broadly, “You remembered what I always taught my students that every day is an extra-special day.” She turns back to her chaotic knitting.
He reaches over to lightly take her arm. She recoils, “Don’t touch me. You took advantage of me once. Shame on me. You won’t do it again.”
Rich wonders what cruel memory she is reliving, “It’s me Mom, Rich, your son. I saw that they are serving ice cream outside. Would you like some?”
Her demeanor instantly changes, “Ice cream. I love ice cream. Do you think they have chocolate sprinkles?”
“I bet they do. Come, let’s go see.”
She drops her knitting in a nearby garbage can, “Let’s go. I want vanilla with chocolate sprinkles.” She stands, but still slightly stooped, heads for the door.
Rich circles behind her as she heads out, retrieves the knitting and puts it on her chair. He hears her from the hallway, “C’mon. What are you waiting for?”
He hurries into the hallway, gently guiding Alice downstairs and onto the expansive lawn. There is a Good Humor truck ringing its bell, last call. Rich buys two ice cream cones, one with sprinkles and hands it to his mother. They share a bench in a white Gazebo on the edge of the woods. A cardinal alights on the railing and chirps a few notes.
What Was That Song?
“Rich, what was that song we used to sing when we did the dinner dishes at night?”
“We sang lots of songs, Mom. Mostly show tunes.”
And as if she is a blossom opening up to the sun and not failing at all, she launches into… “All I want is a room somewhere/ Far away from the cold night air/ With one enormous chair/ Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?”
Rich joins in, “Lots of chocolate for me to eat/ Lots of coal makin’ lots of heat/ Warm face, warm hands, warm feet/ Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?…”
Then Alice stops abruptly and seems to shrink back into herself, like a tulip closing at the end of the day, “What did you say your name was?”
Rich’s eyes water, ”Rich, your son, Mom.”
“Oh, Rich, yes. Did that bully pick on you again at school today?”
“Yes, Mom. He did.”
“Remember, bullies are just weaklings in disguise, trying to make up for their small penises. You stand up to him. Show him who’s the better man.”
Rich blushes and smiles for real this time. “I’m trying every day, Mom.”
“Good,” she says as a tear runs down her cheek. “Because today is an extra-special day.”
P.S. My original fast-paced thriller NOT SO DEAD and the new techno-thriller, NOT SO GONE, are now available on Amazon. Read more about it. Better yet, buy a copy
Audiobook versions available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes