Peter was unusually silent. “Something wrong?” I asked. I was driving along a narrow road so could only glance at him.
The silence lengthened. “Do I know where I am?” he said at last.
Whoa, what? “Do you mean this instant, here, on this road?”
“Well, we just left Carolynn and Bill…we’re heading home…we’ll soon be in Waterville…” I paused to see if my words rang his bell. “Remember last week, on the way here, we had to stop for a parade in Waterville?”
I thought back to that Saturday. The long drive north had been uneventful until we got to Waterville (pop. 1,548), where we were blocked by a parade longer than the main thoroughfare. Stuck, twenty minutes away from Carolynn’s front door. I fumed, but Peter said, “It’s a pretty day. We’ve got time.”
“But I want to be there, not sitting here.”
Forty minutes later we were zooming along the downhill drive to — whoops — Road Closed and Detour signs. “OK, I know how to get there from here, I used to bike along this road.” Several miles later I turned left onto another favorite bicycling road. “Do you remember? We used to ride along here a lot.”
Peter sighed. “You seem to know your way around.”
“We lived here seventeen years!”
“You did. I didn’t.”
A right at the next stop sign, then a quick left and we were on their street. “You sure know your way around,” Peter said again.
“We lived here seventeen years!”
“I didn’t,” he insisted.
When I turned into their drive, he sat up straight and smiled. “I didn’t know we were coming here!” His eyes sparkled and when Carolynn and their two Westies ran toward us he chuckled. He knew where he was.
I laughed. “I’ve told you for weeks we were coming to see them…”
“I. Didn’t. Know.”
Bill and Peter in front of a rock-hugging tree.
Big Guy and/or It.
Throughout our visit, his usual confusion at being away from home eased a bit. After a couple of nights he was able to get from our bedroom to the bathroom and back without going into their room or Carolynn’s office. He didn’t even try to remember Duffy’s or Lily’s names, calling them instead “Big Guy” and/or “It.” He didn’t understand how to use the Wii remote to play golf or bowl with Bill, but he had fun trying. He could still keep track of the dominos played and plan moves accordingly. Bill took him fishing, golfing, and shopping; Carolynn and I took him to the farm stand; I took him to the Polish butcher and past our old house. He remembered the butcher, but had no memory of living in that house. It does look quite different — terrible — minus the two enormous maple trees in front.
Bill, Lily and Duffy follow Peter around Moss Lake as if he knows the way.
But now, headed south again, Peter had asked if he knew where he was. I reminded him of all the things we’d done, his outings with Bill, our hike in the Adirondacks with the dogs. He shook his head. “Sorry, I just don’t remember.”
But I do. I remember a visit special for the girl-time with Carolynn and her friend Robin, a visit with friend Lisa, time off from caregiving thanks to Bill taking charge, and the laughs. Always the laughs.
I won’t forget.
Good morning kisses, Carolynn and Duffy.
Bill and Peter relax in polka-dotted sunshine.
Header photo: Walk in the Adirondack Park.
2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist.