The signs were barely noticeable at first. Things out of the ordinary became uncomfortably the norm and I simply assumed embarrassment didn't allow her to admit. In time, the issues became more serious - money missing that she couldn't account for, appointments missed though they were noted on her calendar, the iron forgotten to be unplugged, spigots running water all day. And the more severe her forgetfulness became, the more distant she grew. We no longer fought over these things and, in time, our vocal disagreements morphed into silent non-acknowledgements. I witnessed as the years passed by, the once vibrant and temperamental woman I loved and married slowly transform into some other, one void of emotion with vacant eyes. I struggled with this more than anything else. Always a formidable opponent, I wanted her to challenge me as she had done many times in the past, wanted her to deny mightily accusations being hurled, but she'd long stopped engaging.
During our marriage she would cry herself to sleep at times because I would never admit I was wrong; but, then again, neither would she. Though we both were headstrong and stubborn to the death, ours was a magnificent and volatile marriage where passion lived, the drama many times leading to bouts of unquenchable intimacy. But that was a lifetime ago.
Now it is my turn to cry myself to sleep, in a home that has become a cold tomb without her. She was the fire that kept me warm and alive who now is but a mere slow-burning ember extinguishing into the dawn of day.
The day I placed her in the home was the day my heart stopped beating, its chambers constricting in a pain unbearable. Each day I visit in hopes that she breathes life back into me, just enough to last me until recognition shows itself again. Most days I am the new neighbor in town she befriends. She inquires my name and asks if I have family. She tells me I have a handsome face and hopes that I don't think her too forward for telling me so. She tells me my face reminds her of someone, but she just can't remember who, and that it brings her comfort and she doesn't know why. Each day the same conversation is had. Each day tears are shed turning my puddle into a lake into a river into an ocean.
And each night I return to an empty home, busying myself in chores, paying more attention to the details than necessary. Each night I beseech the Almighty to bring her clarity of mind once again - even if just for a minute or two - so that I may drink in her dancing eyes and mischievous smile; so that I may get drunk on her guttural, infectious laugh that escapes from the belly where all things puckish live. I pray for these things because every once in awhile, she escapes from the cocoon into which she has hidden and recognizes me. And my heart flutters alive once again. I weep with joy and kiss her soft, gentle hands and kiss the lips that once knew me so well and know me again briefly at this moment. She brings her hands to my face, touching the crevices that age has etched upon my skin and runs her fingers through my white-peppered hair. She smiles, then laughs with abandon and my heart beats loudly and rapidly, a distant drum she hears as well. Suddenly, recognition of what has been taken from us curves her lips downward and just as quickly recovers, "let's not waste precious time. Come lay with me. I want to feel you, smell you, hold you as long as I can. Before I go." Tentatively, in sorrowed tone and saddened eyes she reiterates the inevitable, "Before I go."
And I do. And she falls asleep in my arms, her smell of lilac like a drug much needed to lessen the pain. And I am grateful for our reunion once again, thankful that I have been given one more chance to breathe her life into me, but know that I must leave before she wakes. And as I gently disengage myself from her arms, oxygen once again leaves my lungs.