I Remember You

In the kitchen, Debbie peers into the refrigerator to make sure she has everything she needs for a fruit pie. Her father sits at the small breakfast table by the door, legs crossed, humming a tune.

“I-I-I-I-I-I remember you . . . ” the old man sings.

Debbie looks up from a recipe on her phone. “Is that Roy Orbison?”

“Ah . . . ” James squints, thinking. No, not Orbison. “I-I-I-I-I remember you . . . ” he sings again.

Debbie joins him. “I-I-I-I-I-I remember you,” they sing together.

James can’t recall the name, but the tune seems to rouse a memory. He closes his eyes. “Mmm-hmm,” he says, lost in thought.

Smiling, Debbie returns to her pie. Today is a good day.She arrived home from work early enough to take a walk in the fading autumn sun with her dog, Teka, the leaves crunching under their feet. Back in her kitchen, there were pork chops and broccoli to cook for dinner.

Now she cranks up a jazz song on her cellphone and pours herself a glass of white wine, swaying to the music as the spiced meat sizzles in a pan on the stove.

“There’s better days ahead,” Debbie says. “There has to be.”

She knows she has to figure out how to get help, just as she did when her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She knows there are big decisions to make, but she isn’t thinking about them now, with her father and son laughing over a card game in the next room and a family dinner nearly ready to go. Today seems full of hope and possibility.

Debbie doesn’t know that her father will disappear again the following week. That his grandsons will find him wandering in the street. That she will have to start thinking more seriously about long-term care. That her father will tell her it’s OK, he understands if it is too hard on her to keep him there. That her heart will throb with guilt.

“I-I-I-I-I-I remember you,” her father will sing again and again as his memories fade and he slips further away, lost in a world of his own.

Reprinted with permission – Torstar Syndication Services

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