Three Word Wednesday - distant apology consider - 2/27/08

The prompts this week were distant, apology, and consider. I have no idea why it led to this:

The two photos he could see from his recliner were taken fifty years apart. The first was of their wedding, shortly after he came back from the Pacific at the end of World War II. Every time he looked at it he was amazed at how young they were and particularly how beautiful she was.

It was such a distant memory that it almost seemed as though he was looking at someone else. Yet, in other ways it was only yesterday, the pages of the calendar falling off the wall much too fast and accelerating with age.

The second was taken several years ago at their 50th anniversary party. He thought, had it really been twelve years ago? She was still so beautiful and so happy.

It was shortly after that when the disease began. It came slowly at first. She would forget to turn the stove off, lose her purse, or make a wrong turn driving home. A wrong turn on a road she had driven nearly every day for over sixty years. At first he teased her about it but he could see the change in her. She would become preoccupied and confused. She had always been a shrewd and crafty opponent at Scrabble or gin rummy. But gradually they discontinued playing. He could see the fear in her eyes, followed by anger, that she could not focus.

Then the first real terror came the first time she did not recognize him. It began as a momentary lapse and became more frequent and of longer duration as the months passed. They went together to see a specialist. His diagnosis confirmed what they already knew. Treatment was available but ineffective in most cases. The deterioration would continue. The bottom line was that as the disease progressed, they should consider either in-home care or moving her to an “adult care facility”. At his age, he would not be able to provide the care that she would require. The doctor asked about children. They had two, both in their sixties. They both lived clear across the country and could really provide no help. They had their own lives, medical problems, children, and grandchildren. He knew, that their pensions and social security were sufficient to provide them a comfortable life, but there was no money for buying the kind of care she would need.

He had provided loving care for as long as he could. Through the heartbreak of watching his best friend become a stranger, her persevered. But, as promised, the symptoms of the illness continued to progress. It seemed like it was worse every day. Her once intelligent blue eyes were nearly colorless and vacant. It was not just her mind, but her body deteriorated to a shell. She could no longer control her bowels or emotions.

As he sat in the recliner, trying to summon the courage to dial 911, he could not bring himself to apologize for holding the pillow over her face as she slept. Perhaps realizing that her misery was at an end, there was only a feeble struggle as he heard the sounds of her last, labored breath. He kissed her a tender, final goodbye and as he stumbled through his tears into the living room, his pain was tempered by relief that their shared torment was at an end.

The smiles of the couple in the gold-framed photos were what he would remember. Of all the photos that adorned their home, of grandchildren and great grandchildren, of beloved pets……..these were her two favorites. And though he never admitted it to her, they were his favorites too.