"Old Folks" by Dillon Warren

It was an extremely cold winter evening in Clearwater, FL on November 17, 2006. Florida does not normally have cold winters, but this night was cold far beyond a typical November evening. Walter was just 83 years young this year, and the winters were becoming tougher and tougher on his body each year. This night was particularly tough on him. Normally he 
"Old Folks"
"Old Folks" by Dillon Warren

would go to sleep, and climb into his nice warm bed well before 8p.m. the rooms at shady oaks retirement home are particularly cozy. The building was an old brick unit built in the early 1900s. It didn’t give the appearance of being comfortable inside, but the staff was very good and caring. They kept the place well maintained. The residents of shady oaks retirement home didn’t have much to complain about. Walter could not go to bed early on this night. Wednesday nights were his time to spend with his lovely wife, Margaret. Margaret was younger than Walter she was 81 years of age. She aged much better than he did however. Margaret still had a blonde tint to her hair. Her face had become wrinkled, but compared to the age in Walters’s face she appeared a good 20 years younger. She was a short woman standing about 5’2 (she was 2 years ago). Walter hadn’t lost any height though. He had always stood an average height of 5’9, and hadn’t lost any of it. He felt he was destined to remain average, but at age 83 the idea of remaining average wasn’t a terrible thought his hair had completely lost its color, he had white hair that was rapidly receding, but had not fully left his yet as if it was hanging onto hope that he would not go bald. He didn’t care though. He had long past the age here his appearance was a concern to him. Once you pass sixty and move into a retirement home the concern for your look tend to go out the window. He was content wearing whatever the orderly picked out for him each day, tonight it blue sweatpants, and a blue jacket with a duck on it. Walter felt this looked childish, but at least it matched. Margaret however looked beautiful as always. Even at this age she took the time to pick out her outfit carefully, do her make-up, hair etc. Walter did not understand this, but he admired it. He did not know how she drew the energy to do such a thing in a place like this, but he appreciated it none the less. Margaret’s appearance was all Walter had to look forward to in this place. This was the highlight of his life ever since he hit the ripe old age of 79. A few times a week he would pull up a seat in the cafeteria, and order his usually banana pudding and oatmeal. The banana’s were freshly slices, and mixed in the pudding. He would also have a nice warm bowl of oatmeal with apple cinnamon, with a glass of chocolate milk. He would get hot chocolate on a night so cold like this. The food at shady oaks was top notch as well. Again there really wasn’t much for the residents to complain about. The place was designed for comfort. He would then read the daily paper. He would get it first thing in the morning, but he would wait to read it. He wouldn’t have anybody to converse with, so he needed something to help work his mind while he ate. The Buccaneers had started to become a relevant team, but always seemed to disappoint. Walter loved football, and always made sure to read the sports first in case he ran out of time. He would make sure he arrived at 7:55, this was precisely 5 minutes before Margaret would arrive each night. He made sure he got there before she did, each of them was always punctual. This is one thing he truly loved about her. He made sure that he would grab the southernmost seat in the cafeteria. This was because she sat in the northern end of the cafeteria to be close to the overview of the golf course. Shady oaks had the largest, and most beautiful golf course of any retirement home in Florida, and Margaret loved the view. She ate dinner in this spot every night. Walter would watch her from a far every night during dinner. He did not keep distance out of want, or because he did not want to be right by her side. He had a deep undying love for his wife. He yearned to be next to her every moment until his inevitable passing would come. This was the closest he was able to get, and he had accepted it. He realized that if he couldn’t be right by her side, he at least wanted to be able to see her, and know she was happy, and well. He knew that she loved him. He had never questioned it. She had been an amazing wife to him, and he never felt more loved by any one, or anything in his long eventful life. He wished so much that he could sit at her table with her, and tell her that he loved her. All he wanted was to be able to hold his wife, and tell her every day that she meant the world to him. He was instead forced to simply watch from a distance, and hope somewhere deep down, she knew he was there, caring for her after all these years. He was not distant from her by choice, he had been forced into this role. He had fought it for years, but eventually you must give in when you know there is a battle that you cannot win. Five years prior, Margaret had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It has been a long rough battle from there. She was able to fight it for a while. She remembered Walter for a whole two years after the diagnosis, but it went downhill from there. While she could still function entirely, and lead a relatively healthy/happy life, she had no memory of her life before this place. Walter and her had come here together 13 years ago. They decided not to be a burden on their family members, and check themselves into the retirement home, before they caused too much stress. It wasn’t bad at all though, because they had each other. They shared a room, and lived as just as happily together as they had outside this place. Shady Oaks was very nice, and filled with nice people so there was really no need to complain. Everything was going as well as it could for a couple in their 70’s living in a retirement home. They were both the types that always saw the good in things, and enjoyed life. They always had been. This was until Margaret became sick. Walter had always seen the good in even the toughest things in his life. His step-father had been extremely abusive to him as a child. He had been beaten, and even hospitalized regularly because of it. But as he got older Walter had seen how this shaped his character, and mad him a better person. He could not find the good behind this. He could not imagine why such a wonderful woman had to have this happen to her. He felt he would have been much more deserving of this illness. He had been a bit of a troublemaker in his earlier years. Not Margaret though, she had always been the sweetest most loving person Walter had ever met. He felt she deserved the best, and decided that was what she would get. For all 45 years of their marriage he treated her like a queen. He held every door for her, cooked for her, and held her every night. He made sure he treated her the way she deserved. That was his biggest resentment over the distance he now had to keep. It was not that he couldn’t see her. That would be selfish reasoning of him. It was because he could not treat her the way he had for so many years, the way he knew that she deserved. He knew why he had to stay away from her thought, and while it tore him apart inside, he knew it was what was best for her. There had been multiple instances in the past that needed to be averted in the future. Margaret’s illness had mad Walter very bitter, and hateful inside. He would get mad at her for not remembering him. This was not because he felt she did it on purpose, he knew it was the disease, but because he knew that she needed him, and he could not be there for her if she didn’t remember him. There had been many nights that they had gotten into arguments over it. It was not fair to Margaret, because her memory was gone, and there was nothing she was doing wrong. Walter would yell, but it was not his anger towards her, it was this situation, and this damn disease. But he still yelled, and became angry. It not only affected their relationship, but it affected how the entire home looked at Walter. He could tell they thought he was a bad person for yelling at her, and for becoming angry, but Walter didn’t care.” What right did they have to judge him anyway “he thought, they would handle his situation just the same. The yelling was not forced Walter completely away though. It was an incident only the guards were able to tell Walter about, because he himself could not remember it. He did not know if this was because he was losing his memory as well, or if he just decided to block it out of his mind because he did not want to remember. The guards told Walter that a night similar to his, almost a year ago exactly Walter was yelling at Margaret in frustration. This was not out of the usual. What happened next Walter refuses to admit to this day, even though he has accepted the results. He only has because he is the only person who does not think it happened, this must mean he is wrong. Walter had told Margaret that she must remember him, she had too. She told him that he was not her husband, and never had been, that he was nothing, and was not any part of her life. The guards told Walter that he had struck her. He hit her so hard that it broke his own hand (this may have been because he was old, and fragile). She was hospitalized for a few days, but was released after. He was not allowed in the same room with her for months after the incident. Only within the last 3 months had Walter been allowed to sit in the cafeteria, and watch her from a far. She did not remember the incident so it didn’t bother her. She didn’t even know who Walter was. A guard would sit at the table next to Walter, and make sure an incident like before did not happen. He was not quick enough to make it across the cafeteria faster than the guard even if he wanted too. But he knew better. He knew that him keeping space was best for her. If he had truly done what they said, he knew he had to treat her like his queen, and keep his distance, even if it went against everything he wanted. Walter was not a selfish man at all. Everything was ok though, while this was not the way he had thought things would play out, he was thankful that he was still able to see her. Walter had seen far more tragic things happen to couples who had been consumed by things in this place. As wonderful a place that Shady Oaks was, the terrible things that happened this place could not be avoided. Many other couples at this age had already been separated from their loved ones (one way or another), many could not walk/eat/ or poop on their own. So relatively speaking Walter felt that he and Margaret were doing pretty well. Even though her memories were going, Margaret’s body was healthy as could be. She was still much more spry and full of life than Walter had become. She still always had a smile on her face, and a perk in her step. Walter knew as long as she was happy, and in relatively good health, that was what was important, and he needed to do whatever he could to preserve that. Right now sitting, and loving her from a distance the best thing he could do for her, though he hated it so. Walter was extremely tired on this particular night, but he would not dare go to sleep early on a night he could see his wife. On a night like this Walter normally may have gone to sleep around 5 p.m., he knew he had to tough it out though. He didn’t have anywhere he needed to be, so he could sleep until his heart’s content, losing a little rest was well worth it. All he could think about was how beautiful she looked this evening. She had on a beautiful red dress. She had maintained an amazing figure through the year, unlike Walter, who had begun to grow a belly. He didn’t mind though, he no longer had anybody to attract. He actually like the idea of the freedom to become fat and lazy in old age. In his younger years Walter would obsess about exercising and eating right for health reasons, and to impress his wife. These days he was able to be care free about his weight. He did not have the need, nor the energy, to put in the time to stay in shape. It was not a huge deal, the only woman he wanted to impress did not remember him, and the negative side effects of his food could not ruin him before his time with fate would come anyway so there was no reason to worry. Walter always got his food before Margaret so that he could watch her the entire time she was there. He didn’t want to waste even a moment standing in line when he could be spending time with his wife. Margaret was returning from the food line when Walter noticed the first thing that would strike him as different about tonight. Margaret decided to get the pudding, and meatloaf. Now to most this may seem the most ordinary of occurrences. To Walter this was a huge event. Before the incident that forced Water to the other side of the room, she had always gotten the meatloaf and pudding. Walter had noticed that ever since he has been observing her dinners from a far, she had not ordered either of these items, until just now. Why the change he wondered? Maybe a lingering memory, or possibly that it did look exceptionally delicious tonight. In any case Walter took notice. He also realized that she had today’s newspaper, and began to go to work on the crossword puzzle as she ate. This too was a first since the incident. Was it coincidence that she decided to change these two things tonight? Walter had become so accustomed to her routine that any subtle change sparked extreme curiosity. But why tonight? It must just be coincidence. But what are the chances she would change her routine back to the way it was before the incident, especially on their anniversary? Could it be coincidence? Walter new it must be. With Margaret’s deteriorating memory, and health there was no way she could actually remember the significance of tonight. As much as Walter wanted to believe this was so he knew it was impossible. He knew his mind was only telling him what he wanted, and that she simply had a random impulse to do these things. Just when Walter had that thought, he heard it. It was like the air was sucked out of the room as if he were in a vacuum. The room fell completely silent except for one sound. Walter could not breathe, he was frozen in place and could do nothing but listen to the smooth melody coming from his wife’s lips. There was just no way could he be hearing this, his senses must be deceiving him. He had to concentrate to make sure, but this was real. Margaret had begun humming “I fall to Pieces”, their wedding song. Walter’s mind raced like it hadn’t in the last 40 years. He did not know his mind was capable of this quick complex thought anymore. Why was this happening? How could she know to do all of these things on this night? If she had remembered the day, or the importance, why did she not even take notice to her husband sitting directly across from her in plain sight? Did she remember her wedding, but just forget Walter’s face? Or was this all the cruelest coincidence to ever occur? Walter knew at this moment he needed to answer these questions. He knew he was separated from her for her safety, and did not want to jeopardize that in any way. He knew he had to speak to her. He had to answer these questions. And if he could jog her memory, and cause her to remember him, he could care for her, and greatly improve her life. He had to risk it. He couldn’t do it now, not here in front of the guards, and the rest of the community. He had to think of something. He needed to get to Margaret, and speak with her. “ I can fix all of this” He thought, but how.

Chapter 2

As I sat in the office, I couldn’t help but notice all of the photos of Jim’s family. He was a tough security guard at the facility, and seemed so cold hearted. The residents would gossip, and talk of how he had no sense of emotion. I could see how someone who did not get the chance to know him could easily make this assumption. When you saw the photos in his office however, you could see a man who knew love. He had a wife, and three beautiful children, two boys, and one girl. They traveled quite a bit. Jim was the type of man who lived in the now. He would rather travel and enjoy life with his family, then have material possessions. As harsh as Jim could seem sometimes I had to admire this about him. He was strict, and did not bend on his enforcement on the rules at Shady Oaks. I knew this whole effort had to be in vain, but I could not live with myself if I didn’t even try. Jim and I had decided together that it was best if I did live with Margaret anymore. He knew as well as I that I was lowering her quality of life even more, and that Is not what she needed. She already had a hard enough time fighting this illness, and the added stress would only make it harder on her. It was the hardest decision I ever made, but I knew it was best for her. As Jim entered the room, I felt my heart sink. I felt optimistic at least to the point that I had a chance to convince him until now. I had been telling myself I know the man Jim is, and not Jim the security guard would understand, and have to help me. As he entered the room I felt that optimism leave me quickly. Jim stood a tall 6 foot 2 inches tall, and had a stocky muscular frame. He was 42 years of age, and looked it right on the nose. He had some wrinkles that had just begun to settle in on his face. Working in this place must remind him of the age slowly creeping up on him. He had brown hair/eyes, and a bushy mustache that was very subtly gaining some gray. When he saw me he carried a stern look as though he already knew why I was here. As if we had this conversation before, and he already had his answer. As much as I liked Jim that look was enough to shake me a little. Jim sat across from me at his desk. He looked me directly in the eye without blinking, and said in his deep, crackling voce “What brings you in to see me tonight Walter”? There was a little genuine concern in his voice, but it was thickly blanketed in a stern, unwavering tone. I figured with Jim I better not beat around the Busch. He was the type of man that preferred if you got straight to the point even if he didn’t like the result. I told him straight out “Jim, I know what we have decided, and what we have done for my situation. But I recently things have changed. Margaret has been showing signs that she remembers who I am”. I expected Jim to respond in anger, or disappointment. He knew we had gone through many difficulties to make things work the way they had been. I didn’t feel he would give a response other than asking me to leave. Instead Jim gave a slight sigh, and said “You know I care for the two of you dearly. This is my job, but I do genuinely care deeply for the patients here, that includes you. The procedures we put in place, you and I, have been for the best for both of you, and have worked extremely well. I know how much you love her, but she was not safe when the two of you were allowed to be close. As much as I want you to be happy, I have to protect you. I talk to Margaret every day. If she even showed the slightest sign of remembering anything about you, I would remove our protocol in an instant, and allow you to be together. I assure you that in all the time I have spent with her she show me no sign of knowing who you are. I am sorry Walter, but I would need to see some extreme changes to make a change at this point, and I haven’t”. I understood his point, but he did not know everything I did. Maybe if he knew the signs I could convince him. At least he was showing a side of understanding, and this was more than I had expected to start with. “I have heard her singing our wedding song recently, she has not done this in the past” I pleaded. “I have also noticed she has started to eat meatloaf and pudding, and doing the crossword puzzles at dinner. I know these all seem like minor things, but they are all things that we did/ate together. She has to be remembering something. She just has to. This cannot all be coincidence”. Jim looked disappointed in me. I knew that he cared for me, but he did not seem to be on the same page as me. Jim took a deep breath, and said “I know these things may seem like signs of remembrance to you, but to me they are simple events that do not mean anything significant. The fact that they all happened the same night were general coincidence. Margaret hums that song every day when I see her. She may remember the tune, but she does not make any connection to the music. To her it is just a song. She also eats meatloaf, and pudding often. This may be the first time she has done it during dinner, but it not an uncommon meal for her. I have also seen her do crossword puzzles on a regular basis. She generally does them in the activity room, but for some reason she decided to bring it to dinner tonight. From my point of view these are mere coincidences that have no connection other than the fact that they happened on the same night. I am sorry my friend, but this is just not enough for me to remove all the procedures we have put in place”. This hurt for me to hear. I thought this was special, and that this was the only night she had done it. Still the night was unique none the less. “ You have to at least take notice to the fact that she did all of these things at dinner tonight when I would be there” . I replied. “She has not done this on any other night. There has to be something inside of her that remembers. She remembers the things we did together, so a part of her has to remember me. Is it possible for me to at least talk to her as a stranger, and see if she has any memory of me”? Jim looked sad for what he was about to say next. “Walter” he said softly “You and I both know that cannot happen. If she shows any true sign of remembering you I will break protocol in a heartbeat for you, but until then there is nothing we can do. The brain does not work the way you would hope. The fact that she remembers things you did together does not mean that she has any memory of you. The memories are spate in her mind. If one part is forgotten the other may stay. Unfortunately she needs to show that she remembers you before I can allow that to happen”. This stung to hear, but I had to keep trying. I had already gone this far into the conversation. “I know all of this, but what would it hurt for me to have a conversation with her”? I asked. “All I am asking for is a chance to speak to her, and see if she remembers anything about me. If she doesn’t she will forget, and there will be no harm. You have to at least let me try Jim, I know it’s risky, but there is no way I could live with myself if I didn’t take the chance, and had to always wonder, what if”? Jim sat up straight, and fixed his posture. It seemed as if to set the tone that he was still the ultimate decision on the matter. He looked into my eyes and said very sternly “I know you want her to remember you more than anything in the world, and it hurts me to tell you this, but this cannot happen. I am sorry Walter. Until I say otherwise things must stay as they are for both her well-being, and your own. This is my final decision on the matter. I have had a long day, and I need to head home. I hope you have a great night Walter, I will see you in the morning”. Just like that? How could he be so quick to decide? It didn’t affect him in anyway if he just let me talk to her. He had no Idea what this was like!!! How dare he!!!! “Please” I pleaded. “ let me speak to her, Even if it’s only to say hi. If she doesn’t remember I’ll walk away and never speak of this again. You have to at least give me that”. “I have told you my. Goodnight Walter”. Jim walked out of the office, and didn’t even give a second look back. I was so angry. I wanted to chase after him and force him to let me see her. I could not believe his stubbornness on the matter. If he was in my situation he would do the exact same thing. How could he be so cold hearted after knowing us all these years? I wanted to block him from leaving and force him to hear what I had to say. I had to restrain my urge to lunge at him. In my youth I may have been able to take him down, but in my old age he could probably restrain me with little effort. I had to stay calm. I had to keep my cool, and not let him see the anger burning deep inside me. If he noticed the slightest bit of my anger coming back to the surface, my plan would be sure to fail. I had planned on this being the result. I knew as caring as Jim was the rules were important to him, and he governed this place in strict accordance with them. That is why I had my decided on a second course of action. I knew that tonight there was only one security guard working the east wing. Security breaches are not something that was expected in a retirement home. Security guards here, other than Jim, were a joke. They all played on their phones, and other electronics, or slept on the job. Though who could blame them? There wasn’t exactly mayhem running wild in Shady Oaks retirement home. This is why I knew tonight was the night. Jim had left early, and there was just one new security guard who was extremely lazy on duty. I knew I could get by him no problem. This was my night. I knew it was now or never. “Goodnight Jim “. I said very calmly. “Thank you for your time. I hope you have a wonderful night”.

Chapter 3

The day had taken an eternity to pass. It always does when you have something to look forward to. As much as I respected Jim and his wishes, I could not let his government keep me from my wife. After all I only had to betray his wishes temporarily. Even if I Margaret did not fully remember everything, if I could show Jim that she did remember me he would have to let me at least see her. This I was confident in. Her actions showed me that there was something there. Even if she didn’t have the whole picture, I knew she at least remembered something. I just had to prove it. It was almost nightfall. I had the nervous butterflies in my stomach, but they were never enough to slow me down. I was always the type of person that could push through my jitters and do anything. Some people claim to never get nervous. This was not the case with me. I did just like anybody else, but it never affected me. There wasn’t too much to be nervous about anyway. This was not a high risk operation. There was almost no chance of anything going wrong. All I had to do was wait until the guard on duty finished making a round of the complex, and then simply walk to Margaret’s room. That simple. Our security wasn’t really security. The guards would simply watch T.V. in the office, and about once every hour they would do a quick walk of their section of the building. Our guard tonight was a young newbie. He was even less thorough than most, and only walked the building about once every two hours. This made it easy even for an old man like me to sneak by him with ease. I had been watching this new guard for the past few weeks. I learned his patterns for walking the building. He was currently just finishing his rounds of the building. He always made sure to be back at the office by 11 p.m. There was some murder mystery show that he enjoyed that came on during this time. I figured this would be the best time to make my move. He would be preoccupied. Margaret would have fallen asleep, but not be in such a deep sleep I could not wake her for a few words. I would prefer to let her sleep through the night and not disturb her, but there was no other way. I would apologize later, and I know she would understand. I began walking to wing C where her bedroom was. It was now 10:10, so I knew the newbie had to be in his office by now. If he missed the first 10 minutes it would ruin his show. I couldn’t help but admire the silence in the hallway. Growing up in crowded apartment complexes all my life, it was nice to experience a place where all of the occupants were sound asleep by 10 p.m. I had to admit, I was extremely tired myself. I was also used to being in bed by now. My body did not have the energy for late nights like it used to. That was ok though. I was always more of an early bird anyway, so transitioning to this lifestyle was not difficult for me at all. I was about only one hallway away from my wife whom I had not been able to talk to in well over a year. I ran the moment I would first see her through my head thousands of times already on my walk, yet I still had no idea what the first thing I would say when I saw her. I figured it would come to me in the moment. I was always a good speaker, but I could never really plan my words ahead of time. I knew it would come to me in the moment. I just had to get there. “Hey, what are you doing here?” I heard someone say from behind me. The security guard? What the hell was he doing here? I couldn’t have taken over an hour and a half just walking down the hallway. This was unexpected, but fortunately I had planned for this. “I am lost” I said calmly. “I got turned around, and couldn’t find my way back to my room. Could you give me a hand walking back?” This was a lie of course, but I had to avoid causing a disturbance, or I would never get this opportunity again. “No problem” said the young man. He proceeded to put his arm under mine to help me walk. My legs worked perfectly fine, but he didn’t know that. You never do with old people. I quickly, but seamlessly pulled the rag from my pocket, and placed It over his mouth. He was much stronger than I , but I was still able to hold on for the few seconds I needed until his consciousness left him. I tried to catch him as he fell, but I was not quick enough. I felt bad. I chloroformed the man, the least I could have done was given him a soft landing. Again I would have to apologize for this later. There was work that needed to be done. This was a last resort that I hoped I did not have to use. This meant I really had to speed up the process. The guard would not be asleep for too long, and I would have to provide a darn good reason why I snuck in here to avoid Jim’s wrath in the morning, so I needed to get a move on. I walked as fast as I could get these worn old legs to move. It’s a good thing he confronted me in the hallway. If he had caught me after I reached the bedroom, this whole plan may have unraveled. I could not think for the life of me why he would have been out of the office at that time, but that was a mystery to solve later. My heart fluttered when I saw her. Even though I was merely watching her as she slept, this was the closest I had been to her in what seemed like forever. I couldn’t believe how many times I laid next to her, and took it for granted. Just being this close to her was the best thing I had experienced this year. This feeling was why I needed to do this. If there was I chance I could go back to seeing her every day, I would risk anything for it. I very gently stroked the side of her face to wake her as I had done for so many years. She awoke very quickly as if she was barely asleep to begin with. All the thinking, and all the fantasizing about this moment were coming to reality. I could finally speak to her. She immediately sat up, and slid to the head of the bed away from me. “You can’t be in here right now, I can’t have visitors this late” she said. I put my hands up as if to signal I come in peace to a stranger. “I apologize for my late visit” I said. “Unfortunately this was the only time I was able to come. I am sorry if I startled you. I did not mean to. My name is Walter. I am a friend. I was just simply hoping to say hello, and maybe talk to you for a moment if I could”. She looked slightly confused, and a little frightened this was not exactly the look I was expecting. “I am sorry Walter. It is very late. I really should not be talking to you right now” she said. “I apologize” I quickly responded, making sure to not sound rude. “I just have a question I need to ask you, and I understand the inconvenience, but this is the only time I may ever get the chance to. Do you remember me?” My heart sank. I was so confident of what she would respond to this question leading up to this moment. I couldn’t help but feel a deep chill as I awaited her response. There was nothing I feared more than the possibility of what she might say. Her response only took seconds, but it felt like days. Very softly she responded “yes I do, but it is not smart for you to be here right now”. Even with all of the confidence I had in her remembering me, I nothing felt better than actually hearing the words come from her mouth. This was it. This was the moment I had been waiting for well over a year now. Just to hear that phrase. “I knew you did” I said. “Nobody believed me that you would. I had to know for sure. I knew you had to remember me in some way. We have been through too much for you not to. I love you dearly, and have missed you terribly since we have been separated. I had to see you and know for sure”. I could never had predicted what happened next. There was nothing on earth that could have crushed my elation more than her next words. “Walter, you are not supposed to be here. I am sorry. I have seen you the way you look at me, and when we have spoken you seem to love me dearly. But I do not love you back. When we have spoken you have been violent towards me, and that is why we can no longer talk. It hurts for me to say this to you, but you have to stay away from me”. How could this be? If she remembered me, how could she not want to see me? I know I had anger towards her during the rough times, but could this really erase all of our years of marriage? I had to make it up to her. “I am so sorry for the times I got angry” I pleaded. “I could not control myself when you did not remember me. I was a weak person, and it was wrong of me. I would do anything for your forgiveness. You name it, and it is done. I will do anything to make it up to you. All the years we have spent together, our marriage, our life together, has to be worth fixing. I made a mistake, but you remember me now, and I would never ever hurt you again. Please give me a chance to fix what I have done, and take care of you”. She seemed very concerned. I did not understand how she could be so hesitant to give me a chance if she remembered me. I know I became angry at times, but it was an accident, and I was very sincere in my apology. Did all the years previous to my spurts of anger mean nothing? She looked at me and took a deep breath. “I am not your wife” She said. “I did not know you before I moved into this place. You have been nice to me at times, but you have also been very mean other times. Ever since you hit me I am scared to be near you. You are making me uncomfortable even now. I know you have a nice side to you. I even think it’s possible a part of you may really love me, but it is not good for me to be near you. I wish you the best, but I cannot see you again after this moment.” I was in complete shock. She remembered me, but only our lives in this retirement home. This was terrible. If her only memory of me was the time I struck her, of course she would never forgive me. Without the years of compassion, and love, she had no reason to. I felt my heart drop to my feet. If this was the case I knew I was fighting a lost cause. “I am sorry for the anger I showed you that day” I said very calmly. “You don’t remember it, but we had a life together before we lived in this place. I was good to you, and we loved each other very much. You had a terrible illness that made you forget who I am. It made me bitter, and angry. I thought that you may be able to remember parts of our life. I heard you humming our wedding song at dinner, and eating the meal we would always eat together. I thought this meant you started to remember me, but I must be mistaken. I am sorry that I was ever angry with you; I will let you have your night’s sleep. I will always be available if you need me, whether you know it or not”. She let out a big sigh, and very gently said “You seem very genuine Walter. I you have me mistaken for someone else, I do not know you. I…….”. Just then Jim entered the room. I could feel the anger from him as he threw me to the ground and handcuffed me. This seemed a little excessive though I did understand his frustration with me. I bumped my head pretty hard on the way to the ground. I didn’t know why he was being so vicious though, he could have seriously injured an old man like me. I knew I was going to be hurt tomorrow. I didn’t fight though; I figured Jim would be reasonable when he calmed down. He would be angry, but he would understand. As he carried me out of the room I looked at Margaret one last time, and said “I love you, sleep well”.

Chapter 4

I did not get the best night’s sleep. The entire ordeal left me restless. I did manage to pass out on a few occasions, but I could not sleep for long. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, but it still was a little unnerving sitting in Jim’s office, waiting for him to come speak to me. I really was not looking forward to this conversation. Jim was a very understanding, intelligent mad, but his demeanor last night had me a little shaken still. I had only seen him that intense one other night, and that was the night of the original incident that he had to break up. He didn’t seem as nice for a few days after, so I was expecting him to be a bit more upset than usual today as well. This was completely understandable since he had his own family issues at home. I felt sorry that he had to come into work each day to deal with the issues within our retirement home as well. I just wanted to get this over with; I did not like feeling the tension that was in the room. Before I could even look back at the door, he had already entered the room. He walked to his desk with swiftness, and power. There was a look in his eye that I had never seen before; sadness. He had always seemed somewhat emotionless. Even he would crack a smile, show some anxiety, or frustration at times. He was human after all, these emotions were bound to show sometimes. I had never seen him display sadness before though. He had a stern look on his face as if to show he meant business, but his eyes looked worn down, and damp as if he’d been crying. Jim was one of those people you had to question if that was even possible. He was such a tough guy, it was hard to imagine that could be the case. It seemed more likely that I was seeing tears of anger. He didn’t waste time getting right to the point. “I am disappointed with the way last night went” he said. “I never thought that Walter would ever violate the rules that we put into place. I am greatly sorry that you had to be bothered with this same issue again.” I knew he cared for me. He did about everybody in this facility. I knew he cared for Walter, and he hated the fact that he had to restrict his freedom. “I am ok” I said. “I was shocked that Walter violated our rule again as well, but I was not harmed in anyway. I don’t want him to get into any trouble for this. I am unharmed. I am ok with things going back to the way they were. I am not angry at him, and don’t want anything bad to happen to him. “Jim seemed like he had to really muster his strength for what he was about to say next. “ Unfortunately that is unavoidable. Walter has dug himself into a whole I cannot help him out of this time, no matter how much I’d like too. “I felt bad when I heard this. I knew Walter had wronged me in the past, but I still did not want anything bad to happen to him. Ever since I came to Shady Oaks, he had shown a strange fascination with me. I do not know why he chose me over any other woman here. There were plenty of other younger, retired lady’s here he could have become attached to. But for some reason he had chosen me. This did flatter me to an extent, but was still not something to go along with. My late husband would not have appreciated Walter’s attachment to me, and that’s why I could not let it go on. I had loved James with all my heart. It was hard to make it through my days since his passing. That was three years ago, though it only felt like days. Honestly the only thing that kept me going was the three visits a year I got from my son, and his lovely wife. Eric was 35 years old. He was a successful pharmacist, and had recently married. His wife was young, and sometimes immature, only 26 years of age. This seemed to be the norm these days though. It was becoming more common for older men with money to marry young attractive women. I was hoping they would give me a grandson soon. I didn’t know how many years I had left, and I would love the chance to meet them. Eric said he would like to have kids one day, but he never felt it was the right time. The last time I saw them he told me they were trying, but at his age they were unsure if they would be successful. I hoped so, it would be nice to have a grandchild to come visit me here. My family was the reason I could not oblige Walter’s attachment. If I had not had my own family it may have even been nice to go along with his fantasies, and pretend to be the woman he viewed me as. The company in this place might be nice. However holding onto the ideas of my own family is what kept me sane, and I could not jeopardize that for anything. I could lose my memories of them any day at this age, and I could not do that prematurely. When he first came to the retirement home I greatly enjoyed his company. We would spend almost every hour of the day together talking, playing bingo, watching shows, and having dinner together. Walter welcomed me, and was a great friend from the first day I met him. For about 5 months he was the best friend I had in this place. While he could not cure it, he helped me forget my loneliness just a little. That’s why it was so hard when his memory started to go. He would begin to forget who I was. He had delusions that I was his wife who had passed many years ago. He would make up any reason in his head to convince himself that I was her. Anything from the songs I hummed, the things I read, and even what I ate at dinner. He would convince himself that we had a whole life, and family together. I still spent time with him, and tried to help him through his illness. It was rough, but I figured it was the least I could do since he had so readily befriended me when I was in need. It wasn’t easy, but I didn’t mind being there for him. After all what else would I do with my time in this place? I mine as well use it helping my only friend. I was perfectly happy doing this until he started to become violent towards me. As his mind deteriorated, he became more attached to me, and much more violent each time I had to explain that I was not his wife. I did not decide to stop helping him though. I tried to help him through his anger hoping he would get better, but that time never came. Then one night I was in the middle of trying to explain to him who he was, and that I was not his wife, and in a fit of rage he struck me. For an old man, he hit me extremely hard. I lost two of my teeth. After this I knew I could not see him anymore. In a fit of rage I went to Jim, and asked that he be removed from Shady Oaks. Jim told me he would keep him away from me, but he would not remove him. Jim grew to care about all of us here, and he seemed to have a strong attachment to Walter. Jim took particular interest in his case, and always made sure that he was taken care of. He would make sure to visit Walter at least once a day to see how he was doing. This is why I had a world of respect for Jim, and although I did not like having Walter around, I respected his decision, and had faith he would protect me. Jim did as he promised. He kept Walter at a distance, and made sure that he never came close enough to harm me again. I felt bad because I knew it was just his illness. The Walter I knew was sweet, and would never harm me. But he had changed dramatically since the illness. He was no longer the man I once cared for. This is why I needed to be his friend from a distance, and make sure I did not make contact with him. I would watch him sometimes at dinner. He would sit in the corner, guarded by security. My instinct as a friend made me want to walk over and comfort him. However I knew what the consequences could be, so I kept my distance. I was upset over the incident, but I still cared for him. That is why last night surprised me so much. I could not believe he had snuck into see me. A part of me was glad to see him, but I was terrified at the same time. As much as I had pleaded to get him removed from the home, I knew he needed to be here under Jim’s care. So I looked at Jim and pleaded “Please. I know Walter broke the rules, but he needs to be here. You can’t take him out of the home. I will not complain, or press charges. Please just let him be. He is already sick. His false memories of me are all he has to hold on to.” I couldn’t believe what I saw next. I was not mistaken earlier, Jim’s eyes began to let just the slightest amount of water seep through. He took a few short breaths and said “His incident with you is not the only issue. If it was only that, I could easily keep the situation under control. I am afraid this one is out of my hands. When he snuck in to see you last night he was confronted by our new security guard Larry. When Larry approached him Walter knocked him unconscious with chloroform. He did not do this with mal intent. Unfortunately he was too weak to catch Larry to break his fall. When Larry hit the ground he had a brain aneurism, and passed away. Walter is not being taken away because of you, he is being taken away because of murder.” Murder? Murder? I knew he had fits of rage, but never in a million years did I think he would be charged with murder. Not Walter. Not the sweet man who had befriended me when I came here. How did such a bad thing happen to such a good man? “There must be something you can do “I pleaded. “ There just has to be. You must be able to show them that this was an accident. At the very least get his punishment reduced. He doesn’t deserve to be charged with murder. Not him. He is not a bad person. “I had never seen Jim look as helpless as he did right at this moment. He looked at me and said “If there was anything I could do I would do it. Larry’s family is pressing every bit of charges they can. They even want me fired for allowing a man in Walter’s condition to be in the general housing with the rest of our patients. I pulled a lot of strings to get him taken out of special housing so he could be close to me. I convinced the board he would be much better under my direct care, and this has backfired on me. I am going to lose my job here. I want you to know that I care for you and the other patients here, but I will be leaving very soon. I thought I could protect him, and solve all of the problems, but I only created more. This is going to come down on me. Walter has already been transferred to a special psychiatric home where he will be under strict supervision until the day he dies. I am not allowed to see him. They will not let me visit or talk to him anymore. He is going to be isolated from the world for the remainder of his life, and it is all my fault. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way for me to get out of this. I am going to be facing my own trial for negligence in the special treatment I gave him very soon. I will probably have to face some consequences of my own. “I was shocked by his response. “ We both know Isolation is not what he needs” I said. “He needs you and I to help him with his disease. They must see that the special treatment you gave to him was only for his benefit. You went above and beyond for him, and asked nothing in return. How could they punish you for that? Jim stood up, and grabbed his coat. He walked up to the door. He looked at me and said “I was wrong for giving him the special treatments I did, and now I have to face my consequences. I did not do this for no reason. Walter is my father. I transferred her to take care of him, and keep a close eye on him after mom passed away. She looked a lot like you, you know? I can see why he became attached to you. You have the same kind of tenderness to you that she did. My dad loved you. He may have thought you were mom at times, but he genuinely did love you before, and after his mind went. I tried to let your friendship persist, but I knew it was becoming harmful to the both of you, so I had to step in. It was extremely hard for me to know my own father had forgotten who I was, but he had remembered how much love he had for you. I even began to resent you at times, and that was wrong of me. I knew you helped him through his ailments, and I wanted to let your relationship be. I thought I could solve all the problems, but in the end I just made things worse. I am sorry for any trouble this has cause you Margaret. I must be going now. I have a trial that I will be late to if I do not hurry. My judgment will be passed down shortly. I hope you can forgive the both of us for any trouble we have caused you. For what it’s worth I had hoped you two could have been together to live out your days. I wouldn’t have minded you being part of the family. I cared about you as though you were regardless. Dad would have liked that. I wish you the best Margaret. I hope this place will treat you better than it has us. Goodnight”. He left clearly trying to hold back tears. That was the last I ever saw of Jim. I felt deeply for him. I knew he tried his hardest to take care of us, and now he was being punished for it. I could not stop thinking about our talk all night, wondering if I would ever see wither of them Again. Although they were not my traditional family, I felt I had just lost the only people I cared for in this place. I felt very empty inside. I walked into my bedroom to try to rest for the night. I needed it after the events of the last two days. Sitting on my bed was a picture frame. I didn’t know why it was on my bed or who would put it there. I walked over to see what it was. When I picked it up I felt the stress start to melt away from me. It was a picture of Walter and I Jim had taken at Christmas last year. There was a note on it that read Remember the good times, family is what you make it. Even with all the stress I had been feeling I managed to crack a smile. I placed the photo next to that of my husband on my dresser. I did not know what tomorrow would bring, but I knew I had the memories of the great men in my life to guide me through it.


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