Remember When

‘Who’s that?’ Barbara’s eyes narrowed as she glared at the man in front of her. Then she looked again. ‘Robert! It’s about time!’
‘Mom, that’s Jason,’ Amy answered. She shot an apologetic look at her husband, who shrugged his shoulders slightly in response. They were both getting used to the ups and downs of having a family member with Alzheimer’s. Barbara did have her share of good days, but this wasn’t one of them.

Now, she went on. ‘Well, I’m glad you got here when you did, young man. You don’t want to be late to take Amy to the prom.’
‘No, ma’am, I don’t.’ Jason was learning how to respond.
‘Now, you drive safely. No drinking, and I want Amy home by one.’
‘Don’t worry, Mom, we’ll be careful,’ Amy was learning how to respond, too.
‘You two have a good time!’ Barbara smiled broadly. Amy and Jason were about to leave when Barbara stared in horror over Amy’s shoulder. Then her face cleared a bit and she whispered loudly, ‘The blanket, Amy, get the blanket!’
Amy patted her mother’s arm. ‘OK, Mom,’ she said quietly. After they’d gotten Barbara settled again, Amy and Jason said their goodbyes.

Jason started up the car’s engine as they buckled in. ‘What was all that about?’ he wondered.
‘What was all what about?’
‘Your mom. What she said.’
‘What? About the prom? She does that, you know. She’s re-living my high school years, my prom, the whole thing.’
‘No, the other thing. About the blanket.’

‘Who knows? She could have been trying to tell me she’s cold. Or she could be remembering a blanket she once sewed. I have no idea.’
‘Yeah, it’s hard to know, isn’t it?’
Amy nodded and looked out the window.

Two days later, Amy got a call from the care home. ‘It’s your mother,’ the nurse said. ‘She’s very upset, and she insists on seeing you.’
‘I’ll be right over,’ Amy promised. She put her telephone back in her pocket and went out to the garage, where Jason kept a small workshop. ‘I have to go over to the home,’ she explained. ‘It sounds like Mom’s not doing well.’
‘I’ll come along. Moral support.’ Jason wiped his hands on his jeans and joined his wife.

When they got to the care home, they checked in at the front desk and then headed back towards Barbara’s room. As they walked down the hall, they could hear a nurse trying to calm Barbara down. Amy went into the room first, with Jason following close behind her.

‘Hi, Mom,’ Amy greeted Barbara, who stared at her for a moment. Then something seemed to click into place, and she said, ‘Oh, there you are, Amy! We don’t have much time. Did you do what I told you?’
‘I sure did,’ Amy responded. She glanced at Jason. Fortunately, he understood how it was with Barbara. You couldn’t ask a lot of questions or try to convince her of anything. He wouldn’t upset her any further.
‘Good girl,’ Barbara said. ‘It’s all taken care of, then. Just check the car again.’
‘I will, Mom.’
After Barbara had settled down, Amy and Jason headed towards their car. Jason glanced at his wife. ‘Do you think she was talking about our car?’
‘Who, my mother? There’s no way to know.’
‘And anyway,’ Jason added, ‘Why would she want you to check the car?’ Amy shrugged and shook her head. Jason looked at her again. ‘Are you OK?’
‘Fine, why?’
‘You’re pale and you look upset.’
‘Just a little worried about Mom, that’s all.’

The following Sunday, the care home arranged a picnic for residents and their families. Jason and Amy packed a simple lunch of sandwiches, fruit, and cheese, and drove to the care home. Fortunately, the weather had cooperated, so the staff had put out chairs and tables. There was even a large cooler filled with bottled water and juice. Jason claimed a table while Amy went inside to find her mother.

‘Amy!’ Barbara called out when the two saw each other. ‘I was hoping you and Jason would come!’ Oh, thank God, Amy thought. It’s a good day for her.
‘We wouldn’t miss it, Mom.’
Barbara smiled. ‘I like picnics,’ she commented. ‘But there’s never a good dessert. Did you bring a dessert?’
‘We have some fruit and cheese.’
‘That’ll do.’

When they got outside, Amy guided her mother towards the table Jason had found. Barbara’s mouth dropped open when she saw him. ‘Robert!’ she gasped. ‘What are you doing? Stay away from her!’
‘It’s OK, Mom. It’s Jason. Remember? Jason. My husband.’
Barbara shook her head. ‘You didn’t have a choice, Amy. He was going to –’
‘Don’t worry, Mom. This is Jason.’
‘The river. That’s the best place. We need a blanket first. Get a blanket.’
Jason helped Amy to get Barbara settled. Amy got her a bottle of juice, and she gradually calmed down, even joining them for a sandwich and some grapes.

By the time the picnic was over, Barbara had seemed to rejoin the present. She asked Jason how work was going and reminded Amy to bring her some new crossword puzzles. It was exhausting trying to keep up with Barbara’s good and bad moments, and both Amy and Jason were relieved when it was time to go.

They walked silently to the car. Jason carried the picnic hamper and Amy carried the extra chair they’d brought in case it was needed. ‘Who’s Robert, anyway?’ Jason wanted to know.

‘Nobody, really. Just some guy I went to prom with. A long time before I met you.’ Amy smiled at her husband. That was all he needed to know. He didn’t need to know about the prom, about Robert tearing at her clothes when he dropped her off, about the knife she grabbed, about the blanket. Mom had helped her with everything after it all went wrong. Now if Mom could only hold it together for a little longer.


12 thoughts on “Remember When

  1. Very much enjoyed this with my long weekend coffee! I’ve often wondered what it would be like for a child with a dreadful secret and a parent with Alzheimers. Fabulous story, Margot! (As always!) xx

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    1. Aww…, thanks, Cat! Glad you liked it so well! And I hope you enjoyed every sip of that coffee. I think about that, too, sometimes: what happens when someone has dementia, and is also keeping a terrible secret? It could be that person’s secret, or a loved one’s. Either way, it got me thinking – always risky if you’re a crime writer…

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  2. Poor Amy! She’ll be on tenterhooks from now on near her mother. And I don’t think would appreciate Jason’s ‘moral support’ whenever she goes visiting her mother:)

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    1. I think you’re right, Neeru. Amy is going to be on pins and needles for as long as her mother lives. Too bad about Jason, too; he does love her, so he’s not going to understand why she doesn’t want his support…

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  3. Oh, I really enjoyed that, Margot. What a fascinating idea for a story, it had never occurred to me that that kind of thing could happen as regards dementia. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Cath. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story. And I’ve often wondered what it would be like if someone with dementia had a secret like that…

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  4. Nice one, Margot and quite topical. My mum has just been diagnosed with dementia, something we have suspected for a couple of years, as her short term memory has been very poor and she is extremely prone to repetition in conversation. I think the isolation she endured during Covid lockdowns has hastened her decline. There’s no murder in my past I need to worry about. Maybe I’ll find out about my sisters!

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    1. I’m very sorry to hear about your mother, Col. That must be very difficult for all of you even if the diagnosis isn’t a surprise. It is good to know, though, that you don’t have any murders in your past…

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