“It’s like a slow collapse of words,” Rose said, looking at the kitchen table.
I worried that Alzheimer’s once again befuddled my friend. Deciding it best to say nothing, I did not even try puzzling out her intended meaning. It seemed kinder to simply leave my hands blanketing hers and give her thoughts a chance to regroup.
“That probably doesn’t make any sense,” she confessed after pausing, “but that’s how I feel. My thoughts have always seemed clear, a speech spelled out on notecards. But now those conversational snippets form a tremulous house of cards. And somebody left a window open so that they scatter in the wind before I can reorganize them.”
Her rueful chuckle pierced my heart. Rose’s gentle humor and artistic poise were the first traits to fade when she had a bad day. This, here and now, was about as good as things got. Mindful of arthritic knuckles, I gave the gentlest squeeze. My vision blurred. I blinked rapidly hoping she wouldn’t notice and cleared my throat.
“Your mother once told me that you spoke poetry before most kids say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’, Rose.”
Seeing her headshake made me regret bringing up poetry, her greatest love and the first skill she lost to this thieving disease. Her eyes met mine, though, and twinkled with mirth rather than pain’s bitter liquid.
“Mama always liked you, Myrna, from the day your family moved next door. You were ten, weren’t you? And so precocious.”
I grinned unabashedly now. Not only did she recall that time correctly but her praise brought back fond memories of her twenty-something self treating me like a little sister.
“You always stood up for me when I got into trouble. Like the countless times I got stuck in your father’s oak tree or when I pushed that bully Mark in the playground once. He left me alone after that, at least.”
“Oh, child,” she huffed, sliding one hand from beneath mine to hide a delicate smirk.
We spent the next hour recalling stories from joint family lore. I left her napping on the window seat overlooking her riotous flower garden. Only dots of white here and there betrayed mild neglect – invasive bindweed seeds blown in from somewhere.
Locking her front door behind me, I imagined her grown children busily tending their own gardens. Their visits were either spent reminiscing like we enjoyed today or driving to Rose’s numerous medical appointments. With that thought I vowed to eradicate the pesky little vines over the summer.
Days later I sadly learned that task would be falling to the realtor Alice’s daughter Maggie, ten years my junior, hired to sell the home she and her brothers inherited. I think half our town witnessed my eulogy.