Seventy years ago they had all the time in the world. He’d come safely home from that terrible war in Europe. They had time to marry, enjoy a beautiful honeymoon in the Poconos, build a house with their own hands, start a family. Over the years, they weathered good times and bad, raised two fine children, and cherished several grandchildren.
But now, in their twilight years, he feels time slipping by more and more quickly. With each passing day, Alzheimer’s steals another bit of her away from him. She rocks endlessly and stares at nothing. No longer the university lecturer fluent in three languages, she has lost all words. And he’s become just another kindly stranger in her life.
Today the caregiver fails to arrive. He makes a bold decision. He will drive from their Bloomsburg home to the Crescent Lodge in the Poconos. He will show her, once again, that magical place where their great love began.
They’ve rescinded his driver’s license because macular degeneration impairs his vision. But he will just drive very carefully.
After wheeling her down the ramp, he helps her into the car. As they drive along Interstate 80, he chats about the scenery. She sits contentedly, watches through her window, and hums happily. He knows that car rides calm and entertain her. But the caregivers transport them only to medical appointments.
As they travel, he reminds her of their honeymoon and the wonderful time they spent in the Poconos. He talks about their walks and picnics in the woods, the romantic dinners, and row boating on Tobyhanna Lake. She does not respond.
When he turns off the main highway, he worries about his memory. It has been so many years, but he thinks he can find the way.
After several wrong turns and backtracks, he finally spies the Crescent Lodge on the left. He points and waves his hand excitedly. She glances at the old building.
Then she turns slowly toward him with a smile he’s not seen in years. With her unused voice she croaks, “Love you.”
His chest tightens and he barely breathes as he hears those words. Tears blur his failing vision. It is the best of times.
When he looks back at the road, the huge tree looms directly in front of them. His reflexes are far too slow to swerve. He has one final thought: “together again.”
I cried all the way through. But not at the end.
Thanks for this simple, direct, spare recounting of your story — and for the “happy ending,” as indeed it could be in this situation. I choked up and had some healing tears for all the losses we face in our last chapters — for losing parents and spouses and maybe just “the way things were” when they seemed to be at their best, and then we had to let that go, too…
Well done, triggering a lot of thoughts and for me, possibly different endings. Would like to have seen a less “neat” ending. Wish I could take you out for coffee and wrestle with this — the sign of a good story, that a reader is not quite finished with it! Thank you for your work!
This piece resonates deeply for me. As an older woman, I think of nothing worse to happen to me than to lose my mind–dementia or Alzheimer’s. Better an end like the one for your characters.But there is more to this story than the fear and the contemplation of death over losing one’s sense of self and reality. This story was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. Well done!
Brought a tear to my eye! I could almost feel the love they have for one another.
Very touching, I love it!