Written by Marcos Jimenez
PublishedFeb. 15, 2019, 12:56 p.m.
Today was the day she would be saying goodbye. She had known it was coming for the last 6 months. Well truthfully, she had known it was coming for the last year, or maybe even longer. The man she had loved had been sinking in quicksand and she didn’t know what to do about it. The doctors didn’t know what to do about it. Everyday she saw the aging body of the man she had spent the last 43 years of her life with, but the essence what made him the man she had fallen in love with was all gone.
Dementia is a bitter pill to swallow, it waits until it’s victim isn’t looking and it steals bits and pieces of their soul, replacing those parts with petty things or bogus memories, like taking parts of a beautiful jigsaw puzzle out one by one and replacing them with pieces from another puzzle, one that is sad and painful, grey and dull, pieces that don’t fit properly in the puzzle, so they have to be hammered home, further destroying the beautiful picture.
It had started that night he had lost the car. Parking the car had been something he had done for many years, returning the car to the garage and walking back to the apartment. Only that night, he hadn’t taken the car to the garage and it took them a month to find the car. The only clue was the parking summons that was mailed to their house indicating the car had been towed from it’s double parked location on Oak Avenue to the impound lot up on 125th street. If they hadn’t gotten that letter in the mail, they would probably never have seen the car again. After that, she’d had to go with him every time he took the car to the garage and together they had walked home, holding hands thru the old neighborhood they had spent their lives in.
Yesterday she had contacted her son and arranged things with him. She was worried to involve him in this for fear of what it might do to his life, but she had no one else to turn to. She knew her son smoked the marijuana and she had hoped he would know how to get morphine. She had listened to countless stories her Joe had told her about giving soldiers in his platoon enough morphine that they quit screaming and relaxed into the arms of death. How enough morphine would cause the lungs to quit breathing, the heart to quit beating and the brain to quit caring. He’d say “when a guy is missing a leg and half his guts are laying in the dirt, you know he’s never going to make it. You can lie to him and put him on a stretcher and let him keep suffering until you don’t have to watch him die, or you can take these little ampules of morphine and give him 4 of them and watch him become peaceful and hold him and be with him until he stops breathing. Little sympathies like that make you all the more believable when you tell the other guys they are going to make it and they have nothing to worry about.”
Today it was her turn to have sympathy for him and let him go. He’d become increasingly paranoid over the last month and had begun barricading himself in the closet to keep “Charlie” from capturing him. “Charlie” was the name they had used for the Viet Cong back in Vietnam, the war where he had been a medic. So many of his platoon had been lost to gunfire and landmines that he had been plagued with nightmares ever since. It took him years of therapy to get to the point that he could go back to sleep after being awakened by a noise in the night, but now the nightmares were becoming his daydreams and his reality and he spent so much of this day in the back of the closet huddled in fear that he was no longer living. He was just existing in one long mental scream of fear. Today Joe Jr would be bringing something to ease his troubles and put his mind at rest.
Jr arrived about 7:30am, they were just finishing their coffee when he walked into the kitchen and said hello. Joe Sr jumped when he saw his son, something that had not happend more than a handful of times in the last 10 years. Joe Jr stayed away from his father because of the bitter fights that always broke out when they were near each other. Jr never understood why his father would attack him like that, always trying to make him look stupid or incapable. Something he had done for as long as Jr could remember. Always taking the presence of his friends as the perfect setting to ridicule his behavior or driving or clothes. It was easier to just be away from home which Jr got very good at.
Today Jr passed thru the kitchen and went to his room to “get some things”. His mother followed him. He laid out the syringes on the dresser in his old room. There were 3 of them. One to give him to calm him down, one to sedate him and put him to sleep, and one to end his life. He asked her if she was going to be able to do this, or if he needed to hang around. She took one look a the needles and knew she couldn’t do it. As much as she wanted to spare her son from involvement in this, she knew that in the end she wouldn’t be able to put the first needle in him, let alone the third.
Jr said, “OK, we need to find a pretext to get the first needle in him. After that it will be easy. Maybe you should tell him I’m here to give him his flu shot. That the flu has been going around the doctor recommended you both get the flu shot. Yea, let’s go with flu shot and I can pretend to give you one too.”
His mother just nodded as tears leaked from her eyes. She dried her eyes with a tissue and went back into the kitchen to sell this story to her husband. “That nice medic came all the way to the house to give us our flu shots today Joe. I had asked about it at the pharmacy the other day and they said they could send him around today.”
“When did Jr become a medic?” Joe asked.
“Don’t you remember Joe? He’s been a paramedic for the last 5 years, rides in an ambulance every day and then works with the pharmacy on his day off.”
Joe did not remember this and that bothered him. He was having a hard time remembering anything about his son actually. The boy had always been distant and disrespectful to him, with his unkempt clothes and poor driving habits, it’s was a wonder the boy had made it to 18.
“Ok, let’s get this over with said Joe, I’ve got some things to do out in the garage this morning and I’d like to get an early start on it.”
Jr walked back into the kitchen and said “Ok pops, I’m going to give you the shot in your left arm, so it won’t affect you working in the garage this morning. If you can give me your left arm, this will only take a second.”
Joe offered his left arm to the young medic and felt the cold of the alcohol wipe on his skin. Then he felt the sharp stick of the needle and the burn of the medicine being injected. “You should probably sit here for about 5 minutes before you go work in the garage, just to make sure there is no adverse reaction” Jr said.
Toward the end of the 5 minutes, Joe was having a hard time holding his head up. His wife and son helped him up and to his recliner in the living room. She helped get him in a reclined position and watched with tears streaming down her face as the medicine put him to sleep. Jr then brought out a second syringe and asked his mother, “Are sure about this?”
She looked indecisive and afraid, but she nodded her head and he injected the second dose in his right arm. After that, they stood and waited another 5 minutes as she held his hand. Soft sobs wracking her body. At the end of that five minutes she noticed he as no longer breathing. That his chest was no longer rising and falling. With that she broke down as she watched the man she had lived with for more than 43 years left her for good. Her son checked his pulse and couldn’t find any. He put the last syringe inside his coat pocket, and held his mother as she cried.