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ADELAIDE Independent Bimonthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Bimensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF DELLA
By Nina Wilson 

 

 

 

 

 

A buzzer started sounding off. My heart jumped a few beats and I jumped out of bed, terrified. The world spun for a moment, making everything blurry. Confused by my surroundings I was wrapped up in the blanket and smacked into the carpet. I sucked in a breath and tried to get free, but it was no use. I cried out.



Milk. Toast. Butter. A few moments of peace. I looked at the clock with the red blocky letters right above the stove and under the overhanging Amana microwave my coffee still sat in. Then I panicked. 6:59, in a matter of a minute my alarm would go off…

I ran towards the bedroom and down the hallway only to hear the buzzer briefly and Della smack the ground. “I’m coming dear!” I said, hurrying as far as I could as fast as I could. “Della?”

“It’s me, Della, it’s me, James.” I said. I knelt next to her. She was all wrapped up in her memory quilt. She hardly looked at it anymore. There were photographs printed onto it and pieces and bits of old clothes from all family members. I thought when this all began it would ease the memory loss. Nothing did, nothing could. It was these disease, it was evil. It was sucking the life out of her.



A strange old man wearing a fluffy blue robe walked in the room and stood over me. “Who are you? Who are you? Get away from me!” I cried, pulling myself out of the blankets. I stood up and walked out of the room and headed for the bathroom. It smelled like soap. I must have already showered. There were bubbles in the bottom of the tub and the lime green loofa wasn’t in the place where it was supposed to be. I needed to wash my hair. Of course, I needed to wash my hair. Where was that cream rinse, the pale blue bottle that was supposed to be right under the cupboard right next to the pile of extra toilet tissue? “Where’s the cream rinse? What happened to it?” I asked. The little cat came up and rubbed against me. It had really pale blue eyes, just like the bottle I was looking for, but it wasn’t the bottle. It was the cat.


Now the poor thing was asking about her cream rinse. We hadn’t been using cream rinse since it would always get in her eyes and sting. I walked into the bathroom. She was knelt down almost collapsed into a pile in front of the under-sink cupboard. We had gotten a simplified bathroom two years ago when she started forgetting her name. At least the disease had been slow.

 

James came in. “Well good morning,” I said. “Where have you been?” He was quiet. “Cream rinse. I need cream rinse.” He handed me a bottle. “Thank you.” James turned on the water in the bath. It made a funny clicking noise before smoothing out and water started to fill up the tub.



“I’ve been making breakfast.” I said to Della. Her eyes made contact. They were becoming a creamy, milky blue. They used to be crystal clear and bright. The brightness was fading. Something caught in my throat for a moment.


I felt the water. “It’s too cold, it’s too cold.” I said. I turned the tap to the right. “It’s getting colder.” He nodded slowly, yawned and turned it the other direction. The cat was sitting on the toilet watching us. She reached out and touched the man’s butt. He looked behind him and smiled a bit.



I handed her a bottle of baby shampoo in an orange, clear bottle that was shaped like a teardrop. We had been using this for a while since it wasn’t going to hurt her eyes.

“What’s the cat’s name, Della?” I asked.

“Why are you asking me that question?” she answered.

“What’s the cat’s name, Della?” I added again, but then her face changed a bit and she looked like she was trying to remember.

“Well, I don’t think it matters. It answers to kitty, now doesn’t it?”

“Her name is Kelly.” I said quietly, helping her into the bathtub.



The water was nice and warm now. “Go away!” I said, waving at the man. He closed the door behind him. I sat in the water and watched as it started pouring from the faucet.



I sat outside the bathroom on an old kitchen chair had moved there and listened closely. She was babbling about her cream rinse again.

Then I heard the water start hitting the floor and I bolted in and turned off the water. The entire tub was filled with a massive cloud of suds from the sweet pea soap that I had bought her for her birthday. At least nothing changed in that respect, she loved her pink soaps.



“Where’s my cream rinse?” I asked, looking around for my pale blue bottle. The only thing that was around was shampoo. I couldn’t just shampoo, my hair would become all dry and brittle. I didn’t want dry and brittle hair. I liked my hair soft. So I washed my hair out. It smelled really nice and sweet. My hair felt better after and it lathered up. I liked the smell. It smelled like the pink soap in the clear bottle. That smelled nice too.

That man ran in again, while I was in the bathtub. “How rude!” I cried, trying to cover myself up. He was polite though, and helped me to get out of the tub and I wrapped myself in a towel.

I smelled some toast. I was hungry. The kitchen light was on too. Why was it on? There was food already on the table. I must have already started. So I sat back down and started eating the toast. It was a little cold. I grimaced and smeared more butter on it. Butter could always fix things. Tasted ok. Needed some orange juice. I was thirsty.

James sat down in front of me with a plate of food in front of him. “Do you want some food?” he asked. I nodded and reached for a piece of toast.

“Some of yours.” he pointed to the plate.

“I am eating some of mine.” I responded. He sighed and shook his head. “What are you sighing about old man?”

“Old man? Who are you calling an old man?” He started to laugh.

“Well look at you, bald and liver spots and all. That’s old. You’re all wrinkly. I hope getting that old isn’t that bad.”

“I’m sure it won’t be for you.” He nodded in my direction and raised his glass.

“Well, it better not be.”

The man then went over to my record player.



It was a miracle that she didn’t slip and fall and break a hip or something. Then she just walked right out like nothing had happened with a distant look in her eye.

“Della, you need to take your medicine!” I called. She looked at me, confused. “Della, what’s my name?” I asked.

“What’s your name?” she responded.

“What’s my name?”

“Bread. No… I didn’t mean that.” she said, there was a piece of toast in her mouth.

“James.”

“Well, I knew that.”

After breakfast, I put the dishes into the dishwater and turned on some music. Her favorite artist was Michael Jackson.



He put something in it, but I didn’t see the cover. Whatever it was, it was terribly catchy and I caught myself dancing to it behind the sofa. “Didn’t this just come out on music video?” I asked. “On VH1, right?”

“Well it did come out on music video, do you remember all the men running around in the parking garage?” James asked.

“Have I seen the video?” He then asked if I wanted to see the video and he brought over a computer. “They sure have made those things small in the past few years.” I touched the screen and the video started. “Now how does that work?” Shocked I stepped back a bit and put my hand to my mouth. “It’s not magic is it?”

“Oh no, Della, it’s just what they are doing with technology these days.”

“It’s that pop star, James!” I exclaimed when the video started. “M… M… he was in a bigger band… Jackson… Michael Jackson!”

“You remembered, good.”



When she first heard him singing in the sixties with the Jackson Five her face just lit up. I remember going to a dancing club and she dragged me right onto the floor with such pizzazz in her eyes and we went dancing. At forty years old I didn’t know she had that much energy still in her, but she never really was all that low on energy. Right at the moment she was dancing to ‘Bad’. Even if she didn’t remember the face attached to this song, something clicked in her. One thing she was never judgmental about in this world was that man and his dancing skills. Even with the scandals and the bleaching and the plastic surgery, she still called him a genius and the King, which was impressive because she really loved Elvis too, and only a person incredibly worthy of the title King would get it from her.



“Well how would I forget?” I asked, starting to sing along to the song. “Would you dance with me?” I took his hand and we started to dance in my kitchen to the song. The song changed to “The Way You Make Me Feel.” I wished I was wearing my high heels. “Well, I sure do love you James.” I said giggling, feeling all giddy. I started singing along and twirling around the kitchen.



When we started dancing I couldn’t help but think of the past, it was something I still had access to and there were glimmers of Della’s past self still in her eyes. We first met during the Second World War while we were in a small rural liberal arts college. She was studying history to be a school teacher, while I was studying any number of things before I eventually landed on religion. She always laughed about me being focused on things that I couldn’t see, and I laughed that she had some fascination with dead things. She went on saying that apparently, I was incredibly infatuated with supernatural beings, and when comic books became a thing, we both started getting into those. To Della, they played quite heavily into history, at least in a modern sense. We re-watched our childhood play out during Captain American, and throughout many other periods such as the Cold War; growing gracefully into our old age through them. At least we agreed on something we liked. Most of the time we were that genuine bickering old couple that never ‘got along’, but we settled down just fine.



James took a hold of a pink ball that we kept on the shelf and he bounced it on the ground for me to catch it. With a lot of concentration, I got it. “Good job!” he said with a chuckle. I threw the ball back to him and he caught it in one hand. But when he threw it back at me I missed it and it bounced off my hands and onto the kitchen countertop where it knocked my glass off and it hit the floor. The noise was shocking. “What happened? How did that get there?” I asked.

“Stay back, Della, I need to clean this up.” The mess caught the light from the window so well. It just sparkled just like a jewel or a diamond. It looked so expensive. I wanted to hold a piece of it, and so I lifted one of the smaller shards and held it up to the window. It was really sunny outside, no clouds today at all. That must have been why the birds were very chatty. The birdfeeder was empty. That wasn’t ok. They needed food just like anyone else. A squirrel must have eaten up everything, but those guys were hungry too.



Pleasantries never lasted very long and when we accidently broke a glass while throwing a ball (an exercise the doctor had suggested to us) the peace just flitted away. While I got the broom and swept the mess of glass, she clearly didn’t listen and just went on picking up a shard, but within moments she just wandered right outside and stood underneath the big oak tree in the front yard and stared at the branches. “Della, dear? What are you doing?” While there I picked up the paper lying on the porch.



It was spring; they just woke up. “Birdseed… we need birdseed…” I said. We had lots of birds in this yard of all different colors. There was a blue jay who wasn’t very nice though, and he would come and scare everyone away. It wasn’t fair though; the way the other birds were treated. At the moment though, there was just a robin and a female cardinal sitting on a branch together. They sure got along. If they didn’t, they’d be fighting right now. Then I’d tell them to stop. James gave them some food and the chirping kept on, maybe happier than before. The cat came outside then and sat on the porch. The birds didn’t seem to like her being around, but I hoped they would get along.



“Della, what is it?” I asked. “What are you doing?”

“The bird seed, we need bird seed. Would you go get it?” she asked. Her feet were firmly planted on the ground. She wasn’t even wearing her slippers. She never went around barefoot before. She used to be paranoid about those sneaky little parasites. Accepting the situation at hand, I just went and got the birdseed in a container on the porch. If I didn’t keep a good supply of it, I’d regret it. She’d really throw a fit.



All of a sudden my hand felt like it was burning and there was blood coming all out of it, just everywhere. Dripping from my hand and down my arm. “How did this glass get in my arm?” I asked, pulling out a cloudy red piece. “What happened?” I threw it on the ground and James pulled me inside. He took me to the sink and the water washed off all the red. James wrapped the cut up. “Well how did all this happen?” I asked.



Then she did throw a fit after I filled up the birdfeeders. She started to cry and held up her hand. The she had grasped the glass in her hand so much that it must have cut her palm. Blood was just about everywhere on her left arm. I sighed and took her hand in mine and led her inside to get a bandage. She didn’t remember how this happened, but that was becoming a normal occurrence. At first it started with her forgetting where various things were, turning in the wrong places on her drive home from work. She had stayed at the high school as long as she possibly could because she was scared of… well, this happening to her. That was always the fear, she had five younger sisters, all of which had already died due to Alzheimer’s complications. So, until she was forcibly retired because of her increasing age, she remained pretty well mentally intact, just a few bumps here and there. Then she went downhill slowly. She found plenty of things to keep her mind active. Between gardening and volunteering to help clean up the cemeteries around town, she always was better than I at those things. Maybe I was too comfortably with passivity. I needed to be prodded to get things done. Her activeness was healthy for me too.

“You weren’t being careful.” he answered. “Do you want to do a puzzle? You like puzzles.” he asked.

“Well, sure, why not?” He led me to sit down at the couch and I did and he brought out a box. It was just a 100-piece puzzle. “I can do better than that.”



“Let’s just start with this one first.” James said, sitting down next to me, opening the box and emptying it on the coffee table. I always wondered why it was called that, neither of us drank coffee. We thought it tasted bad. It was just like a drug too; it wasn’t good for anyone’s heart. My heart already had me to deal with, it didn’t need any other stress on it. I knew someone who had died of a heart attack, but I didn’t remember who, someone important.

Just then I wanted to talk to my parents. They didn’t visit all that much. I supposed it was because they were getting older and were busy with all their new friends, but it would be nice once in a while to see them. Then James told me that they were still on vacation. They had been on a cruise ship somewhere south of here for a long time. I suppose that’s what some people do with their retirement. Father was a dentist, maybe he made a lot of money and could spend all that leisure time in such an expensive way. We had to be careful with money around here. Things were expensive.



“Where’s mom and dad? I called them yesterday and they didn’t answer me.” she said. I looked over to her, a bit surprised.

“Well I don’t know, I think they were going vacation, remember? They don’t have phone service.” I responded. I always said the same things. In truth, her father had died a good fifty years ago from a heart attack, and her mother had died a good twenty years ago from cancer of the colon. “Can I call Janet?” she asked. Her sister. Died of the disease Della currently had. “She’s on vacation with your parents.”


“Well why didn’t they invite me? That’s not very nice.” she said, crossing her arms, looking hurt. “Well why didn’t we ever go on a vacation?”

“We did, remember when we went to Las Vegas? You danced on that table.” I laughed. I went over to the bookcase and showed her a picture I had taken of her. It was about fifteen years ago, but that was the best vacation we had. Just us going from casino to casino, watching all the shows we could. She even wanted to go to a male strip club, I didn’t allow that.

Then I heard that my sister Janet was with them. I had never been on a cruise ship; it would have been nice to see that and part of the world. Traveling wasn’t something that James and I could ever afford. All of a sudden James showed me a picture of a woman dancing on a table in some ugly yellow dress. “Who’s that? Why is she acting so foolish?”

“Dear, Della, that’s you.” he said with a chuckle.

“What? Where? This doesn’t look like home.”

“We were in Nevada, in Las Vegas. Don’t you remember?” I shook my head no.


“You must be lying.” I said. Nothing came to me. “We never went to Las Vegas, we talked about it, I know we talked about it, but we didn’t go. We don’t have the money. We were saving to go see the concert so we can hear the songs in real life.”

“You haven’t been to a concert?” he asked, looking through the fridge.

“What are you looking for in there?”

“You haven’t been to a concert?” he asked handing me the jug of milk.

“What’s this for?” He didn’t answer, only sighed. “James? What’s this for? Are we drinking milk? I’m not really that thirsty right now.” He poured the milk in a plastic cup. “Why aren’t we using the nice cups? I don’t like these ones. They feel cheap.”



It was true that back in the day we didn’t have money to go on a vacation. Teaching theology wasn’t a lucrative business and neither was being a schoolteacher. We hardly had enough to pay rent and eat, but Della was desperately wanting to go to a Michael Jackson concert that I was secretly saving up money for her 66th birthday to do so. I remembered that it was her first concert. She was so shocked of seeing him in person, on stage that she was jumping up and down and yelling like all the young people there who were holding the glittery signs that said ‘We love you Michael’. She slapped me on the arm and said we should have done that so he could see that the fans that started being fans when he was little were still here kicking and rocking out. It was hard to hear him over all the screaming and yelling of the fans, but his dancing was still right on point and unbelievable. I was sure that man wasn’t affected by gravity.

Della cried so much the day we heard he died. We were at the public pool that day, soaking up the sun. I never thought I’d be comfortable lying on one of those white plastic pool bed, bench things, but there I was, flab, age spots, white hair, balding head and all with a Stephen King novel, Salem’s Lot, in my hands. Della had just read it, her first Stephen King novel, and she wasn’t much of a fan or horror and gore, and this wasn’t an exception. I was almost done with the book so right next to me was Bag of Bones to read next. She was reading the entire works of Victor Hugo which only comprised of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, which she had serious issues with, and Les Mis, which she said was far less depressing than the musical. Then the real depression hit when the overhead radio which was playing some awful country music went to news and we were told that Michael Jackson died.



“They are cheap.” he answered. He looked tired.

“But I don’t like them.” I said sternly.

He shook his head and poured the milk into a glass and handed it to me. “Better?”

“You don’t have to get snippy with me.” I said plainly. James went right to the couch and sat down, pointing the clicker at the TV. It turned on. The set we had was brand new. It was so flat and… not shiny. James turned it onto the news. “Why do you have to watch all that horrible stuff, James? Doesn’t it make you sad?” I asked.

“It’s what’s happening in the world. It’s ok if it makes me sad.” he responded, taking my hand. “It’s nice to be informed.”

“Well what if they’re making it all up, journalists do that sometimes.”

“You don’t have to believe it, Della, but there’s some truth in everything. You used to tell me that all the time.”

“I used to tell you that? Well what baloney.” I said, picking up a magazine that was sitting on the side table. I pointed to the front cover. “Who is that?” It was some weird looking man with a leather coat and red shirt that needed washed.

“You know him. That’s Stephen Tyler.”

“I don’t know who that is. I just know he needs to brush his hair out, maybe use some cream rinse and… and less drugs. He looks as high as a kite.”

“You know him; he sings in the band Aerosmith. You like Aerosmith.”



Her eyes welled right up with silent tears. She set her book aside and just sat there, staring at the waterfall in front of us where mindless children were splashing around. “They don’t care.” she said then, pointing at them. “They don’t know who just died. God made some mistake. It’s too soon.” She was really quiet the rest of the day, and Della was never quiet. Never was, still isn’t.



“Aerosmith…” He turned off the TV and started to type away at his little computer thing that fit on his lap and a song started to play from it with mellow guitar. “All these lines on my face getting clearer… the past is gone…” I began to sing along, a smile crossing my face and I sang along.

“Half my life’s on books written pages, lived and learned from fools and from sages……. Dream on!” James started to sing too. His face looked all nice. He was nice and clean and shaved, and he didn’t need to worry about cream rinse or his hair. He didn’t have any!

He fell quite when I sang, “Sing with me if just for today, maybe tomorrow the good lord will take you away.” He looked sad. I kissed his cheek. He looked happy again. “I thought this was the man named after the blimp.”

“Led Zepplin?” he laughed, smiled and shook his head. “No, no, this is Led Zepplin.” He kept tying away on that flat black keyboard until some old timey music popped up.

“This sounds like it belongs in the Middle Ages.” I said, crossing my arms.

“Give it a moment, Della.” he said patiently. I nodded and listened. Voices started and there was guitar in the background. I kept nodding, hoping that the song would come back to me, I was sure it would, I could feel it in the back of my head. It was familiar. Eventually it hit me, “All of our thoughts are misgiven…” I began.

“There you go, you remember!” James said, and then he began to sing along with me, carefully though. Maybe he didn’t remember it well either.



She only went to two other concerts since the Michael Jackson concert, and was greatly disappointed, at least in comparison: Aerosmith and Bon Jovi. I couldn’t get her into her other favorites, Guns n. Roses, and Metallica. They never came anywhere near us geographically or in terms of the budget. She sang along to every single song by those ones, mostly because she was conscious when it came to them rather than enraptured. I never understood her amazement with music. She only laughed and told me that if her parents ever heard something like this, they would deem it heretical, demon music. No one when she was little would have ever imagined that she would see anything like that, that anything in terms of Kiss, Alice Cooper, or Twisted Sister would ever walk out on stage. Men wouldn’t have the 80’s hair band hair, the makeup, the ripped shirts, and painfully tight jeans. She didn’t necessarily find it glamorous, she thought it more humorous. The early days of Bon Jovi could have been the funniest though of all. She thought of it as cliché, but the lyrics always stuck with her longest. You Give Love a Bad Name was our ballad for some time, then she switched it to Bad Medicine. I thought she had gone a little odd in the head thinking that way for a woman her age. Who would have thought being so old could feel so young and free?

Most of that young and free feeling dissipated, even as long as it lasted. Mom always said good things don’t last forever, but if you ask God nice enough, they can last longer and end easier. I wasn’t sure that this was a nice easy ending though. Della was clueless of her illness this far into it. Her nervous fears she held all her life came through and there was no fear anymore. There was just living life in specks of time now. For her, it was simple. For me, it was hell. I wasn’t sure what I did, or what she did, or what anyone did, or would have done to be cursed.



“Ooh, It makes me wonder… and a new day will dawn for those who stand long, and the forests will echo with laughter… your head is humming in case you don’t know, the piper’s calling you to join him… dear lady can you hear the wind blow? And did you know that your stairway lies on the whispering wind?”



That’s what this was, a curse. At night, lying in bed, sometimes I’d stare at the ceiling and think that maybe a demon crawled inside her and started gnawing at her personality, leaving bits and pieces behind, but also large gaps and holes. As farfetched as it sounded, it was the most logical explanation. Her brain literally looked like it was being eaten in those scans they showed me. Or a parasite had crawled up in there and just started eating up all the things a brain needed. For the brain to go first or last, it was a tough question to face. She was still physically healthy. Everything was in good if not near perfect order, well everything else at least. It was just this damned brain issue that basically took my wife away from me. At least she recognized me most of the time. I was told that eventually she wouldn’t. How something could take away life itself, the soul, without removing the body, I didn’t know. I had always thought about death as being the destruction of the body and the leaving of the soul, not the other way around. Yet I wasn’t God, I didn’t know what sick sense of humor he had, and I was sure coming to believe that.



He showed me a picture of them from the computer. “They look much cleaner, maybe not healthier though, they need to eat more, smoke less. I don’t know why all these people are smoking so much, don’t they know it kills their lungs? Lungs are important.”

“They sure are.” He stood up and said, “Do you want to do something else?”

“No, mores songs!” I demanded. “I like the songs. I remember them.”

“Yes, you do. It’s nice to hear you sing.” he said, kissing my cheek.

“Well isn’t that nice.” I said and kissed him back. “You’re a good kisser. Always have been.” Then I pointed at the computer. “More songs.” I touched the screen on a familiar name “Queen.”

“There’s no way in hell you forgot this one.” he said with a laugh. “Remember, you saw them on some television program. Thought they were ridiculous.”

Once the music started I said, “Ridiculously good, James. Good… carry on, carry on. Gotta leave you all behind, and leave you to face the truth… goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go…”



At first Della asked if it was a punishment, but I tried to convince her it wasn’t. She had never done anything wrong. Then she started to go all evangelical on me and asked, “Have I ever lied? Have I ever coveted? Ever taken the lord’s name in vain? That makes me a liar, a coveter and a blasphemer, that makes… that makes me not sound all that good.” She was panicking and pacing around our bedroom. All the sheets were torn off the bed. I told her she was being too hard on herself and she said, “I’m literally losing my mind!” I told her that she was right, that’s what was happening, but that didn’t mean she did anything wrong and responded with, “No one deserves this happening to them, Della, but it’s just… it’s just how it is.”

“Just how it is? Just how it is? What kind of answer is that?” she spit, throwing the pillow to the ground. I had just ironed all the pillow cases for her, and made the bed perfect… but ok.


“We should really do something else.” James said.

“No, please, please,” I begged just as the sweet guitar solo took hold.

“You know if your mother heard this music, she’d die.”

“Well, she’s not going to hear it… where is she anyways? Why hasn’t she called?”

“I told you this morning, they are still on their cruise.”

“We didn’t talk about them this morning.” I said, shaking my head.

“They are still on the cruise Della.” He looked to the screen and said, “Here’s one we both like and we can sing together. We can dance to this one.” He took my hands while the guitar kept on going. “Guns n Roses.”

He began to sing as loud as he could, and with a pretty nice voice going on, “She’s got a smile that seems to me, reminds me of childhood memories. Where everything was fresh as a bright blue sky!” He spun me around and we were both giggling and I started to sing along too. “And if I stared to long I might just break down and cry!” he belted out, kissing my cheek. “She’s got eyes of the bluest skies!” He touched my brow and framed my eyes. “I hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain.” His voice quieted a bit into seriousness. He always got so serious so quickly.


I admitted that at times I would get weak kneed around Della still. When the life returned to her eyes, when she knew who I was, the stone wall I built to keep myself safe from her tantrums would crumble. Her warm smooth hands caressed mine. If I closed my eyes, I could pretend everything was fine. I could ignore the locks on every door in this house, the plastic covers on door knobs and plugs, the soft corners added to the walls and countertops… I had to baby-proof a house for my wife. This was the first child I had ever taken care of. I nicknamed the demon, a five year old rage monster ‘Gyda’, which if we were able to have a child, it would have been named Gyda. I did this to keep myself calm. My only saving grace was a dwindling sense of humor, and her music. Her music was her only saving grace, the only thing she could truly remember without fail. It lodged itself in her brain better than I had after all these years. I could be jealous of it. Sometimes it said things better than me. “Through the sleepless nights, through every endless day I’d wanna hear you say, I remember you.” That was my hope. My goal, each day, for her to recognize me at least once even though I knew one day it wouldn’t happen at all. That distant, confused, blank stare would look past me and that’d be that, she’d be gone.

The glimpses were all I had.



“Do you want any food?” James asked.

“I want to listen to my songs” I said.

“Let me make a play list.”

“A what who?” I asked.

He sighed and said, “Like a fifteen track.”

“On that thing? How do you do that on that thing?” I poked it and something moved. I jumped back. “Is it magic or something?

“It’s not magic, it’s just how they make things these days.” he said. He began poking around on the screen.

“That’s absurd. Why can’t you use a clicker?”

“They don’t make clickers for these, Della.”

“No need to get snippy.” I said.

“Just let the songs play. Don’t touch the screen. It might mess something up.” he said. Then he walked off.

“Here I go again on my own! Cause that’s the only road I have known…. Hangin’ on the promises of songs of yesterday. Though I keep searching for an answer. I never seem to find what I’m looking for.”


As the day dragged on, her obsession with the music grew. I was exhausted. After dinner, I told Della, “Watch your program, I’m going to shower.” She didn’t acknowledge my presence. She was too amazed at the library of songs available to her.

Relieved I left her in the living room, lights on, doors locked, fed, watered, and otherwise content. I hadn’t showered in days. There wasn’t enough courage to leave her alone that long enough, even at night.

With some time to myself, I breathed in the hot steam, holding onto the matted silver bar to keep myself sturdy. Age hadn’t been kind to me either, I just didn’t have the time to notice it or deal with it. I washed with my Dial soap, aware that if I didn’t smell like she expected me to smell, it’d be harder to get her to recognize me. Dial Gold.



I heard a chirping from the window, and turned to see the bird. It was blue, happily going about its day. I stood up to go say hi to it. It flicked its tail and jumped to the tree. The door was locked, so I unlocked it and stepped outside, quietly closing the door behind me in case James had fallen asleep.

The bird kept singing to me. Though it’s been a while now, I can still feel so much pain. Just like every night has its dawn… every rose has its thorn. It knew my songs.


Sixty years of using the same bar of soap, no hope of changing now. I tried that. There was a box of the ‘mountain fresh’ scent bar soap, but the results were surprisingly disastrous. For two days she fought against me like I was an intruder. Going back to the gold bar seemed to fix things.



“Do you know this one?” I began. “Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done, lay your weary head to rest.”

Don’t you cry no more. Once I rose above the noise and confusion, just to get a glimpse behind this illusion.

The bird flew from its roost on an empty birdbath to the road. That birdbath needed water put in it. A bird might want to clean itself off. The bird called to me again. It was hovering above someone. I didn’t see who it was just yet since it was getting dark outside, but the streetlights hadn’t flipped on yet.

Feels like I’m knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, feels like I’m knocking on heaven’s door.

“You know Guns n Roses?” I called to the bird. It only chirped back to me. The person standing in the road was getting clearer. “You really shouldn’t be in the road!” I called.

Times have changed and times are strange, here I come.



When I stepped out of the shower, the music was still playing softly in the background, Michael Jackson’s ‘Scream’. I listened for a second to the pained yelling. At least it wasn’t Della’s. After a quick brush of the teeth and getting my warm flannel back on I stepped out. “Della, do you want any hot chocolate?” I asked. There was no reply. “Della?”

Panicked I ran to the living room and Della wasn’t there. She had left the playlist going. The front door wasn’t opened but unlocked. It had been a week since she could last comprehend how to turn the lock, much less pay attention long enough to do so. I pulled my slippers on and went outside with a flashlight I had near the front door in case this very thing happened. Night mares had been plaguing me about this… I was about to install alarms on every door in case she wandered around at night, forgetting where she was.


“Mama?” I said, trying to approach her. “When’d you get back from your vacation. You were gone so long. You should have called.” She just kept walking like she didn’t hear me. “Mama, it’s me, Della! Mama!”

I’ve seen your face a thousand times every day we’ve been apart. And I don’t care about the sunshine ‘cause Mama I’m coming home. I can’t stand to say goodbye; Mama I’m coming home.”

Finally, she stopped walking, but as she did so it started to rain. I pulled my shawl tighter and tried to get closer. “Mama! Wait for me! We should get you inside!”

She said, “For I must be traveling on now. ‘Cause there are too many places I’ve got to see.”

“Even you know Free Bird. James would love to hear that. We can listen to music back at the house.”

She started walking again. She usually was difficult to talk to at night. She was stubborn.



“Della? Della, where are you? It’s James!” I called. She would follow the lights… she wouldn’t wander around in pitch blackness, she knows better. I turned right and followed the street lights, looking for her small frame hobbling around barefooted.

“Della!” I screeched desperately, the heat beating through me viciously. I can’t do this… I can’t do this… she needs more than me. I’m not enough. “Della!”



“It’s raining. Mama, you know Guns n Roses? Do you?” she didn’t answer.

“Cause nothing lasts forever, and it’s hard to hold a candle, in the cold November rain... and no one really knows who’s letting go today. And when the fear subsides… we can still find a way.”



“Over here!” A voice called, it wasn’t my wife’s, but it was a woman’s voice.

“I’m coming!” I called back, trying to quicken my pace. Despite the adrenaline, I was losing my breath.

Della stood in the middle of the street, babbling, staring ahead, groping the air. A woman was holding her in place, trying to keep her calm with a soothing voice. The woman was older, like us, a small, scared dog huddled behind her.

“I apologize.” I said. “Della, look at me, you’re safe, you’re safe.” I embraced her tightly, feeling her tense body claw onto me.

 

 

 

 

About the Author:

Nina

Nina Wilson is a locally published author and photographer who recently received her BA in History and Writing. She has been previously published in "The Pearl", "Coe Review" "The Fishfood Magazine" and for Camp Fire Heart of Iowa. In the realm of poetry she is mainly interested in writing found or cento poetry because of the ability to piece together lines and phrases from other works to make something new. In fiction, she is deeply interested with exploring illness and how it effects individuals and their families.

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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