FragLit

an online magazine of fragmentary writing

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Haunting Memories

Fall 2009 :: Current Issue

2009 :: Issue 5/Fall :: Haunting Memories

Fragments from an Alzheimer’s Journey

Esther Altshul Helfgott

1

He’s Sadness
and thin,
scared,
confused—
a bird looking for its mother

There is no pill for this
not for him,
not for me

I give him a pear.
He eats it all—
bit by bit
until
it’s
gone.

2

Today I wheel him
to the window
where he points outside

and says:
He’s dying

I say:
Who’s dying?

He says:
That guy

3

More and more
he slips into himself
un-waiting for me to join him.
A man, still. The same face
hardly changed.

But for cognition and the lack
of affect
who would know
he won’t remember us—
when I leave.

4

His face is my grandfather’s
staring out from an old picture frame
a reminder that love is like the moon
waning into different shapes—
crescents, slits

5

Today when I walked into his room he was sitting in the wheelchair staring. His eyes were red, and I thought he had been crying; but there were no tears. He didn’t know me. I looked straight into him and said:

Hi Abe. I’m Esther. I’m your wife.

I’m Esther.

Really?

Really, I said.

And he was alive again.

6

He’s better today,
recognized me when I came in
took my hand and kissed it.

Later, he kissed his own hand.

He has a bruise,
and he kissed the bruise
as if he were a father caring for a child,
something like the day
he called himself He.

7

TONIGHT AT DINNER

A dish of pears
6 ounces of health shake
4 ounces of apple juice
The rest: spit out.
Chewing’s hard.
Swallowing
liquid’s easier.

To myself, I think:
I’m tired,
I want to go home.
But where is home?
Here, at the nursing
home or in that other place
where we used to live?

8

HE’S BEDRIDDEN

bedridden
bedridde
bedridd
bedrid
bedri
bedr
bed
be
b

9

He’s weak and tired
his hands curl into fists
they’re cold and clammy
his arms are cool
the rest of him is warm

he opens his eyes and says: We did it.
then falls back to sleep

10

How long
can a body do this?

Whose body am I talking
about anyway,

mine or his?

I’m not sure
I know
the difference.

11

Neither pear nor peach satisfy him.
He barely drinks the shake
and doesn’t understand the word Cookie.

But he smiles and holds my hand. He calls me Hon.
When I leave, I kiss him and say: Goodbye. Again.

12

Again.

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