Like Gold from a Dusty Riverbed

We pull up to the market, though I do not expect her to understand this. Any of this. That we have arrived somewhere – the grocery store. That such arriving implies something – shopping, food, moving from our seats, walking into a store, placing items in a basket. What is a basket? What is a store? A noise comes from her that sounds like a question: “Uggafugga?” I can see that she sees the car has stopped moving and I watch as a subtle panic comes over her. She knows something is changing. She does not recognize our surroundings. She wonders what we’re doing, where we’re going. She whines her agitation the way a baby might – threatening tears through plaintive grumbles, her body restless against the seat. I repeat the words “grocery” and “shopping” each a dozen times. Perhaps they are familiar because she settles and seems to forget her opposition. I climb out of my seat around to the passenger side of the car, pull open her door and lay my body in across her breast to unbuckle the belt. She grabs at it. Gibbers. Maybe it’s “Uggafugga” again, but this time “Javalootsi” too. “Grocery. Shopping. Grocery. Shopping.” She doesn’t immediately stand, and some days I will have to grasp her leg and draw it toward the asphalt. But today I wait, outside in the cold, standing by the open passenger door and catch my breath for the next move. If someone pulls up beside us or comes through with their cart, I will amplify my plea – “Mom. Momma! Mom. Nancy! Come on Nancy. Grocery Nancy. Shopping Nancy.” I will barrage her with the simplest symbols, but it will be the urgency of my tone that finally moves her. We will walk toward the store, she trailing by a step. I will look constantly over my shoulder for her. When we do finally enter into the produce section of the market, she will find the pre-cut pineapple immediately, diverging toward it as it glows to her like gold from a dusty riverbed. She loves it so much she will be able to tell me so. She loves it so much she will be able to say clearly: “I love” and she will mean the fruit, as she clutches it to her.

Some mornings when I wake her, in that moment before any specter of haunting memory has penetrated, she will open her eyes, she will look up at me, and she will say “I love.”

Originally written January 2014

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  • Reply Casey November 17, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    What a sweet ending. And a perfect description of the anxiety induced by bringing people with this degree of dementia into public spaces.

    Thank you for sharing Elizabeth Grace Wolf.

    • Reply elizabethgracewolf November 23, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      You know Momma loves her pineapple Casey Wolf! Thank you for walking this path by my side.

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