"Madeline, what's wrong?" Sweetie asks me. I look down. I think she knows what's wrong, it's the same thing that's always wrong. Ralph is cheating again. I saw him walking around with this old lady. She doesn't look anything like me. Her eyes are turned inward, and her face is scrunched up. I may not be the most attractive thing, but how can it be that he's attracted to both her and me? "Madeline, if it's about Ralph, don't worry about it so much. I don't think he deserves you! He's always going around with these other women, while you're here with us, talking about him and only him. Just move on!" They all tell me this. All these nurses. I know they're right, and I know that they're only looking out for me, but I don't know if I can just up and leave someone I've known my entire life. Ralph and I have known each other since we were kids. That's a long time for someone my age."Well I'd find a boyfriend, but none of these guys in here are even worth looking at twice!" It's true. The men here are all old. One night I left for a while, and met this very nice, attractiveman. We chatted for a while, but I kept Ralph in the back of my mind and ended it quickly. Now I wish I hadn't. "I'll find you a boyfriend! Any man would be lucky to have you! You're beautiful like a little kitten." She says. It's funny, this nurse is always around me. Talks to me every day. I love her, and she loves me...but I can't for the life of me remember her name. That's why I always call her 'sweetie'. She walks me into one of the dining rooms. She's right, there are plenty of men. One plump man with a bald head who doesn't seem to know how to talk, one old man with oxygen in his nose who issleeping in a recliner, and then a man that might be nice looking, if he had teeth. I'm trying, but I miss Ralph. I can't take seeing him walk by me all the time with different women. When we're together, he tells me how much he loves me, and I feel the love I've always felt. But he acts like an entirely different person these days. I try to talk to Sweetie about it, but she always tells me I need to move on.He's in here with these men, sitting all alone.I want to stay strong, but I also feel the need to go over there. I look around to make sure Sweetie and all her sisters are gone, and make my way over. "What are you doing?" I say, with a smile that says 'I forgive you'. He looks up at me. He looks so tired, so worn out. "Who are you?" He asks me. What does he mean, who am I? He knows me, he has to. "Ralph, don't be funny." I say, getting my hopes up that that's all it is. "Who isRalph?" He says. Now it's getting to be ridiculous. "You're Ralph, you know that." It's starting to hit me that something's not right. I try to get him to remember, but he just isn't remembering. My mother had a stroke a while back, and afterwards she didn't know me or my sisters. I think that's what may have happened to Ralph. I go out in search of Sweetie. She's not at her cart where she usually is. I know she will be able to help me, I just know it. But where is she? I start calling out "Is there a nurse around?! Anyone?!" That's when I see Sweetie running down the hallway. "Madeline, what's the matter?" She says in her calm, soft voice. "It's Ralph, he's not right. My mother acted the same way after her stroke." I told her. "Madeline, it's okay. He just had surgery, remember?He's going to be like that as part of his recovery." She said. This wasn't part of his recovery, he hadn't been like this all evening, and now all of the sudden he doesn't know who I am, and he doesn't know who he is. "It's not part of his recovery! He was just fine! I think he should go to the hospital." I said. She always does what I ask, so I knew she would take care of him. "Madeline, I have a shot for him that will help. I promise it will." "I don't think a shot is going to help him, I really think he had a stroke." She is usually very good about these things, but I don't think she realizes the urgency of this situation. She pulls out that black little radio she's always talking into, and says "Ellen, where are you?" Then she turns to me. "Don't worry, I'm calling his nurse to bring him to the hospital." Thank God, I knew she would come through for us. She brought Ralph up to the front, and I followed behind them. We waited there. I ran my fingers through his hair. "Boy Ralph, who cut your hair last?" I said. It was so short, it wasn't short earlier. Then a tall, slender woman came. "I'm going to bring him to the hospital, ok?" She said. "Give me a kiss" I said. He wouldn't do it. I kissed him gently on the head, and whispered 'I love you' in his ear. She wheeled him away, and Sweetie and I went back down to the dining room. I try to take my mind off of thingsby telling her stories.She often finishesthem for me, I guess in my old age I forget that I've told these stories before. We laugh, and she hugs me. "I've got to get back to work Madeline, ok?" She stands up. "Can I come with you?" I ask hesitantly, I don't want to disrupt her. "Of course but you might be bored just watching me pass pills!" I walk out with her. I stand near her cart while she gets out medicine, and I talk. "Madeline, you're acting different." She says. "Well I'm worried." I try not to get her upset by talking about it too much, but I just can't concentrate. "About Ralph?" She asks. "Yes. What if all of this is because of how I was treating him all day? I know you all say he's no good for me, but I love him. I love him so much, and when you love someone...it's so hard to see their faults." She looks at me, and wraps her arms tightly around me. "Let's sit back down for a while." She says. So, we sit back down while she gives me this awful breathing treatment. I usually won't wear it, but right now I'm just too sad to refuse. She wraps her arm around me and I lay my head on her shoulder. "He'll be ok Madeline, I just know it. Someone is going to call and give report soon."She's been telling me all day there are no phones here, now suddenlythere are? "Someone is going to call? I thought there were no phones here?" I say, calling her bluff. "No, someone is going to come here from the hospital. Soon, I promise."That doesn't sound good.It must be a big deal if they're going to come all the way over here from the hospital.I'm trying to be strong, but I can't even bare to think about how my children would feel if he- "That doesn't sound good." I say out loud. "No, it's probably fine. It's just because we don't have a phone. Your mother was fine after her stroke, wasn't she? Ralph will be the same. He's a strong man." I look at her, and she has tears in her eyes just like mine. "I would be so lonely without him. And the girls, they love their father. They would be overcome with grief. I can't lose him. I can't." I can no longer hold in my tears. I cry and cry as she holds me and I know she's crying too. I look up, and my daughter Carla walks into the room. She looks fine, not upset at all. I wonder if she even knows what's going on. I run over to her. "I'll leave you two alone." Says Sweetie, as she leaves the room. I don'twant her to leave, though.If Ralph lives, it will have been because of her. I want her to stay with me while I deliver this awful news."You know about your father, right?" I ask her. She looks at me, not saying a word. "Mom"- that doesn't sound good. I don't want to hear it. I know that look in her eyes...I've seen it before. Then, she pulls out a peice of paper from her purse. "I don't want to do this, but I don't know how else to make you understand." She says. I don't understand. I don't uinderstand at all. She hands me the peice of paper, and sits on the couch. "Please sit down Mom." I sit next to her and read it. It's a newspaper article from one year ago. An obituary.
Ralph L. Murphy
I look up at her, I don't understand.Why would she make a fake obituary?
"Mom, Dad died a year ago. The men that you were with are residents here. They have dementia and do not know who you are. They didn't pass away, but dad did. Mom, you have Alzheimer's disease."
I don't beleive a word she says,
and never will.
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