I will care for her.
It is the least I can do for the woman who has stood by me all these years.
The person who could love me despite my faults. The person who could keep me from making a mess of our kids. The saint who forgave me when I failed our marriage vows. The woman with a core of steel who saved me when I had a stroke, and did everything to help a cripple become even part of a man again.
Even before the doctor uttered the word Alzheimer’s, I knew she was in trouble. Neither of us had the memory we’d once had, but watching her fumble through finding the right key to open our front door, it was clear she was having problems. The doctor spoke of “rapid onset”, and the need for her to have special care, but I knew that meant her locked in a room, or stumbling through the halls of a “home” she didn’t know, surrounded by strangers.
I was polite to the doctor as I took her home, even as my soul raged inside at the idea that someone could suggest she end like that. From that day, I watched her fade.
It wasn’t all bad. Sitting beside her in the arbor I’d built for her, the one she’d covered with climbing roses, watching her smile, was a thing I could do every day for the rest of eternity. Even on the nights when she wake confused, not knowing where she was, I could still take her in my arms, and she’d calm down, murmur my name, and fall to sleep again with a smile on her face. I could lie there,, watching her sleep, knowing she still remembered me, still loved me.
Those days were become less and less frequent. Last night, when I’d tried to calm her, she’d stuck me and asked me who I was before coming back and accepting me again. Tonight, she’d come to bed smiling, seemingly happy to lie beside me again. I fell asleep with her, as she always did, sleeping snugged close beside me.
I woke unable to breath, my eyes open and unable to see. I felt pressure on my right arm, my wife’s knees, trapping my ‘good’ arm as she pressed a pillow down on my face. My ears could hear her, though, even through the mass of foam that was robbing me of air.
“Who are you? How did you get into my bedroom? I won’t let some old pervert like you rape me! My dad will be here soon, and he’ll take care of you if I don’t!”
I flail at her with my crippled left arm, trying to get her off me, to lessen the pressure enough that I can draw a breath, but it’s impossible. She continues to scream at me, but her voice begins to fade into the all-encompassing roar that seems to fill my head. I gasp, and my lungs seem to draw nothing in. The darkness before my eyes grows deeper, and I know I am dying.
Dying at the hands of the woman I love.
Maybe it’s justice for all the things I’ve done wrong. I think to myself as the world fades around me. I can’t hate her, even now. I know what will come next, and I worry about what our children will think, finding that their mother has murdered their father because she didn’t even recognize him. Forgive her. Care for her. Don’t let her die alone. Even I didn’t die alone.
The world fades, the roar ends, and peace comes to me at last.