The lost vacant eyes of someone who is suffering from dementia can be frightening. They lived their entire life until the ripe ages of 80, 90, or 100 and know nothing more than a child. A child who is lost and constantly searching for something. Something that he or she cannot describe or understand. They just know that it’s out there.
Sometimes that something is as easy as a loved one or a misplaced item. Something that can be redirected by distracting. Sometimes it’s harder than that. Sometimes it’s needing to go home and pick up the kids. Searching for a non-existent car to pick up the kids at a school they no longer attend. And searching for those kids who have grown out of their childish ways.
They stare at the person who claims to be their child. Their child with wrinkles, graying hair, and a family of their own. When did they grow up? They are unable to recall. They don’t remember watching their child grow to teen to adult. It can’t possibly be them. The person tears up and cries before them, “Why don’t you remember me?” They cannot answer. They’re still wondering who you are.
What happened to their house? Their home on top of a hill with a garden in the back? Their husband? Where are they now? Strangers come in the room to comfort, to console, to let them know they are safe. But what do they mean by “this” is their home? This is a hotel, a hospital, a friend’s house. Not home. Who is the person on the other side of the room? Why is their stuff there? How long have they been here? The strangers hold their hand and talk about other things. Soon they’re talking about flowers.
Dinner. They look down at the plate filled with some of their favorites. It smells so good. Their stomach gurgles at the smell. But what are the strange things next to the plate? Cold, metal, and something that appears to be for something. Its four prongs stick out from a longer metal shaft. They used to know but they can’t recall. They can’t find anything to eat their food with. They sit and look down at the plate before attempting to eat the spaghetti with their hands.
A TV rambles on with the weather of the week. They don’t pay attention to it but rather pick a loose string from their blanket. A stranger walks in, smiling, asking questions that they soon don’t know how to answer. The stranger asks what month is it and they replied with December. The stranger smiles and goes on. They look out the window. The sun shining down against the pavement with flowers reaching up to soak up the rays. Looks like a nice day out.
More strangers. More crying faces. More things they’re not unable to recall. Days go by. Years maybe. They never know what’s coming or who’s going. The lady behind the curtain has disappeared and now that side of the room is vacant. Maybe she went home or on vacation. They think of something funny a long time ago.
As soon as the thought comes up, it’s gone.