The ladies at the happy table are not themselves tonight. One of them passed on last Saturday.
She went down pretty suddenly—dehydration; a trip to the hospital; back to her room at the retirement center for a day or two, and then she was just gone.
They are somber, quiet, all in pastels tonight. The weight of their own, not too distant, futures hangs heavy on them, dragging their usual gaiety down into their plates of uneaten food.
It’s not just the specter of imminent demise that’s got them. They just plain miss her. They knew she was kooky, but it was in the cutest way. She war her hair jet-black to the very end (but for the unseen white roots along the cowlick in back of her head). And there was not one single pastel item in her wardrobe—no ma’am—that hair always sat atop a veritable July flower garden of fabric winter, spring, summer or fall.
They just can’t believe she is gone. If she could go so easily—so quickly—which one of them will be next? They look around the table silently and conjecture, wondering what’s worse—to go suddenly, with such little pain; or to be sitting here slightly more alone each day, more isolated from the world, more focused on whether or not the dinner is edible.
Because frankly there is not much more to entertain you in this place. Amazing how the relative temperature of the tomato soup can become such high drama in the life of a former emergency room nurse, mother of six, college professor, CPA.
I know these things because Daddy’s dementia has progressed beyond the constant chatter stage into the occasional inappropriate comment stage. And Momma has pretty much stopped talking, or eating, or hearing much at all.
And it generally only takes me about the first 10 minutes of our endless Monday night dinner ritual for me to tell them the only parts of my life that they can comprehend anymore.
So watching the ladies at the happy table has become a major component of my salvation during these affairs.
Only, tonight my thoughts are giving way to which cliff in the Blue Ridge Mountains I am going to throw myself off of at around age 79.
I don’t think I have these ladies’ courage—or my own parents’ for that matter—to stick it out to the ugly end.
© Jane Ellen Holliday Wilson