It started out as a good evening. She was alert, happy, and talkative when I picked her up. The dogs made a fuss over her. She sang “A Bicycle Built for Two”to William again. She even made it from the kitchen table, through the dining room to the powder room and back without any help–the first time in a long time that has happened.
Then during supper the flood gates opened. She was sobbing, crying for her mother.
(The back story is she never knew how her mother died. She was out of school, working, and living away from home with a girlfriend on the west side of Cleveland. One day her grandfather had lunch with her someplace and simply told her, “She’s gone.” If there was a funeral, she doesn’t remember it. She has intimated that her violent stepfather might have been responsible, but I haven’t had a chance to look up old newspapers, and of course the family would have kept such a thing quiet. She has told me enough stories about her stepfather that it is plausible, but there is no way to know.)
I finally got her calmed down enough to finish eating. In the car on the way back I asked her questions, trying to get her to focus.
“What is your name?” “Esther”
What is your last name?” Long pause. “I’m not sure.”
“Who did you marry?” “I think his name was Jack, but he was my second husband. My first husband died.”
“No, you were married only once to Jack Freeman. Your last name is Freeman. You were married 67 years.”
“Oh really? Then who died? Somebody close to me died.”
“Well, you have lost a lot of people who were dear to you. You mother and grandfather, two children, and Jack died a few years ago.”
“Oh. I don’t remember.”
I could sense the tears welling up again, so I hastily shoved a CD of old popular songs that Al had made for her into the player and we listened to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “School Days,” and “Alexander’s Rag Time Band.”
It worked. She was distracted. As I pulled into the driveway at WP, she said, “Are we back in Berea already?”
“No, but we are back where you live now. Look, there’s Michelle waiting at the door for you.”
She counted in German the five steps to the porch, turned to give me a kiss, and said cheerfully, “Goodnight. See you soon.”