Submitted by John L. Lincicome.
“Do you like bar-b-q’d chicken”? she asked.
The she is my partner in life. She’s an adorable 64 year old with the heart & soul of a saint, but a fading memory akin to that of a gnat. I thought she was bullshittin’ me, so I asked.
“No” she said. “I hate when people bullshit me, so why would I bullshit you?”
I’m seated at the control panel of the computer in my “office”, lost in a spreadsheet when she came in. She was standing to my right, her head tilted down to the left. She was finishin’ off a taste of Sweet Baby Ray’s with her tongue by sweepin’ it across her lips, and standing above me with curious in her eyes, and that lip smackin’ thing goin’ on born of left over Sweet Baby Rays. She had her jeans on and one of her favorite pullovers, barefoot and comfortable, comes to mind. She’s…
…a short gal, with very long & beautiful, wavy hair that’s still predominantly brown with streaks of lighter browns. She has a few extra pounds on her frame like most of us have at this age, a rascal twinkle in her eyes and a laugh like a sailor on holiday when somethin’ strikes her funny. A look that cuts straight through a human and sends them smack dab into the darkness when she ain’t happy. Just now, she’s somewhere in-between.
“Why do you ask?”she says as she looks into my troubled eyes.
She changes her posture a bit, stands taller somehow. The low light of the computer monitor in front of me and below her, casts a subtle, albeit odd shadow from her nose and up and across her cheek. Her teeth dull, not white. Not dirty, they’re clean, she’s just been gifted with the dull teeth thing and now a shadow across her cheek as she polishes off the remaining memory of Sweet Baby Ray’s on her lips.
The fact is that I’ve cooked up chicken or pork or beef for her with Sweet Baby Ray’s on it several times a week since this whole pandemic started. Served it to her on a warmed plate with fried potato’s & carrots, her favorite, with a dollop of ketchup and a dollop of Sweet Baby Ray’s on the plate, too, because I know she loves that stuff. But, I haven’t cooked that stuff up for a solid month or more, mostly because I’m sick to death of eatin’ the same thing over and over and over, and instead ordered “in” or made somethin’ else for us. She doesn’t cook much, mostly because the smoke detector irritates the bejeebers out of her – but today she’s in the mood to cook. For a beat I made a mental note to check the batteries in the smokey that lives on the hallway ceiling…
“Because you’ve eaten bar-b-q’d chicken and stuff ever since I’ve known ya. Cooked it for ya many, many times…” I said. “Don’t ya remember?”
She looked that look at me that I’ve come to learn to mean that she’s not getting’ it. I struggled with the frustration of it as I looked deep into her eyes hopin’ against all odds that she’d say somethin’ like; “Faked yer buns!” or some such thing and we’d have a good laugh about it. But, no such luck.
It was then that the fact that she does NOT remember, and ain’t gonna remember either became crystal clear, plan “B” came to mind.
I thought of a post that one of my FaceBook friend’s had made recently that had to do with copin’ with those in our lives that maybe havin’ a bit more trouble with memory than the rest of us. It spoke of empathy, and just giving in to the moment, accept the circumstance and do what’s necessary not to make it a big deal of whatever is goin’ down, “shine her/them on” in the most empathetic spirt of the word that’s possible.
So I did. It felt dirty to do so, to shine her on, but it’d feel worse if I persisted in tryin’ to coax her memory. Ain’t no easy, man, ain’t none. I’m tellin’ ya.
We spoke of recipe’s and cookin’ and all sorts of things for a few minutes as she stood with the shadow of the computer light upon her nose and cheek, inspiration in her eyes, and happy in her posture. When we were done she said she’s gonna cook up some of that bar-b-q’d chicken stuff, and If I’d like some, well, I was welcome to try it when it was done. Said she’d shout to me when it was ready.
To the reader; This shit is heart breaking on both sides. Her side, and mine, and to those of you who know what it is I’m tryin’ to explain that are currently in this stuff up to your heart, too, I don’t need to explain no more.
I come to the brink of tears in the moments like the one I described above, and manage to fight them off. Just want to hold her and tell her it’s all gonna be okay, but she’s not of a mind to know there’s anything amiss to begin with. That’s how it is. That’s it. It’s lonely on both sides, comes to mind.
“You want some Sweet Baby Ray’s with it?” she asks as she pokes he head around the corner from her world and into mine.
“That sounds great!” I tell her.
She smiles a smile and goes back to where she was. In the next beat –
the smoke detector goes off.