Her eyes were cold and distant as she looked up at me, lying on the hospital bed.
“You don’t know who I am, do you?” I can barely speak, can barely breath. I can’t believe this is happening. It’s my worst nightmare come true.
“I’m sorry. I’m not really sure what’s going on,” she states apologetically.
“Don’t you worry yourself, darling. These nurses will get you all comfortable.” My back is suddenly aching. I need to stand up. Maybe walking around will help my mind settle.
“I’m sure they will,” she smiled sweetly, just like she used to – before. Her focus turns to the nurses in the room, and they begin a side conversation about the day. Their voices fade into the background.
“I’ll be right back. Just going to step out for some air,” I mumble to no one in particular.
That’s the day my life as I knew it fell apart.
Five years later –
I open the tall glass door leading in to the memory care unit.
“Hello, Sally. How’s your day going?”
“Just fine, Wendall. Thank you for asking. She’s in a good mood today. Was laughing all morning at breakfast.”
“That’s wonderul,” I smile. I can’t help but to feel a little tinge of excitement.
“What number is it today?”
“The big 2,000!”
“I just love seeing you two together. It’s almost as though nothing changed.” She sighs and goes along her way.
I keep smiling. It’s going to be a good visit today, I can just feel it. Every day is as good as we make it. I knock on the door to Room 309.
“Come on in handsome.”
“Good morning, darling.”
“Oh, Wendall. Hello. Are you here visiting your wife?”
“Indeed I am. How is your morning?”
“No complaints. Well, actually, I was hoping Marcus would be coming to visit me. I’m not sure where he’s been, but we were supposed to see a matinee today.” She glances around him at the door as she fiddles with the strings hanging delicately from the shawl draped around her shoulders.
“I see. Maybe he’s just running a little late. It was pretty busy out there.”
“You’re right. I just worry so.”
“Did I ever tell you about how we met? It was pretty scandalous.” She blushes ever so slightly.
“No, I don’t believe you have.”
“Well, I was seeing this other guy at the time. It was pretty serious. He was a good guy. My parents loved him, but he just wasn’t the one for me.”
“What was his name?”
“Wendall or something like that. Well, Wendall and I were supposed to meet up for dinner and a show one evening at the promenade. For some reason, he couldn’t make it. Well, I decided to go without him and by george I’m glad I did. It was there I met the tall, dark, and handsome Marcus. He just swept me off my feet, literally, into a dance. We saw each other a few more times, and it was the same thing over and over. Instant fireworks. I know mama and papa wouldn’t approve of us, so I keep up appearances with Wendall. But my heart belongs to Marcus. I sure hope he makes it here ok.”
“He sounds like a great guy. You two ever have any kids? My wife and I had 2 boys, Jonathan and Joseph.”
“Oh, you’re a real hoot, mister. I mean we’re only 22. Far too young for anything that serious. But maybe one day! I like those names, too. If I ever had two boys, I’d put those names at the top of my list.”
“Yeah, they’re good names. Good kids, too. Well, I should get out of your hair in case Marcus shows up.”
“Thanks for stopping by. Tell your wife hello for me.”
“I’ll be sure to do that. Bye, darling.” I turn and close the door behind me. I sigh deeply. It’s a good day for her but another heartbreak for me.
“Bye, Wendall! Was it a good visit?” Sally asks as I approach the front door.
“Oh, yes. See you tomorrow.” I try to hide the hurt as I leave the building, knowing that I will forevermore be breaking my heart further with each passing day yet also knowing there’s no way I’ll ever stop visiting my lovely wife of 65 years. She has my heart till death do us part.
Dedicated to my loving aunt and uncle who are living this through day by day. (Names and circumstances are fictional.)