by Susan Gibb
He believes that the gas can has been stolen from the garage. He told me he thinks that it would be better if maybe I had left it behind at the gas station when I filled it for the mower. I might have; I really don’t know.
I know this; it wouldn’t be better. I do not have the courage to tell him that, or that I am balancing the worry of theft of things against theft of the mind. Because I saw how my mother was through ten years of Alzheimer’s that slowly cleaned out the closets of her brain. If he knew the heartbreak, the worry and frustration my father had lived with during that time, it’s doubtful he’d prefer that I’d forgotten the gas can at the station.
How long before he realizes how often he’s pointed out that I’ve left the stove burner on? Or had laundry sitting in the washer for two or three days. Or, or…
I do watch for signs.
It is an incredibly beautiful day, early September, sky so blue with a tiny smudge of a cloud left like a fingerprint by a child playing with chalk. Instead of drifting away, it dissipates, evaporates until it is nothing. I feel that way too.
A breeze flips through my hair, its fingers teasing the silver strands to shine in the sun. An incredibly beautiful day; one that, were it my last, would be perfect. Late summer is a good time to die, I think. Before the brash oranges, yellows, and reds paint the trees with a confusion of colors like fire. And autumn leaves them wrapped in the ash of winter.
When I can bear to think about it, really think about it, I cry. Not for me, but for what he’ll be facing. I could have handled it being him. Somehow, in that way, I’m stronger. I don’t know how he’ll be. If it’ll break him. If he’ll be able to cope, to still care.
I do watch for signs. Even now, as I sit in the back yard, the checklist scrolls through my mind: car windows closed, tomatoes picked and washed, tonight’s meat taken out of the freezer, and yes, stove burners off. I even forget if I’ve checked while I’m doing it, so the thoughts come back again and again. It’s tiring. It’s scary. But so far, it’s still under control. So far, it’s under control.
The day is so incredibly beautiful. Cradling as a mother’s touch. His car in the driveway hums to a stop. He’s home from work and, having not found me inside, steps out to the patio. I get up to greet him, as I always do, with a smile and a welcoming kiss. And I know him. I know who he is to me.
But I cannot remember his name.