I always enjoyed Sundays, especially Sunday dinner. My grandmother was an excellent cook and she would rise early on the Sabbath to prepare a lavish meal fit for a wedding. As I recall it was after a delicious meal of chicken casserole, fresh cut green beans and scalloped potatoes that Edward Fry proposed to me. Edward’s father owned half of Cherokee county, the mill and the lumberyard. I remember Grandma was initially thrilled and credited her Italian Cream cake as the irresistible bait. My memory fails me as to why we argued later and she refused to give me the recipe. Whatever it was it didn’t hamper my love of Sundays.
Friends and family would stop by after church or after fishing all day, one seemed as restful as the other. They knew me and I knew everyone in the community.
That is not the case now. People visit but it’s not the same. I hardly know these visitors. I have seen a few of them before but I haven’t a clue to what their names are and I am a bit suspicious of their intentions. They are just faces, acquaintances, people I presumably know though I do not recall precisely how we met. A few of the faces gathering are not familiar at all. They smile and let on like they know me personally; like we’ve shared more than a cordial conversation or a hot cup of coffee. I find their behavior to be crass and much too assuming. They try too hard; with all of their grinning and nodding and batting their bloodshot eyes at me. It’s a ploy to seem sincere. They impose and pester me with niceties and the constant can I get you something as if this was the wake of a dead man and I was the widow.
Darrell (that’s what he calls himself) sits down beside me and pats me on the leg. When he’s not touching me he’s cooing and awing like I’m a goddamn baby. I try not to speak to him because it only encourages his vulgar behavior. He must be a hundred years old. The flesh beneath his eyes hangs in folds of blue and purple. One would think the puffiness would plump up those dark circles but it doesn’t. I stare at his hand when he lets it rest on my thigh. It looks like a gardening fork draped with crepe paper and it’s cold. He makes me nervous. I move my leg away from him but he insists on petting me. He reaches toward my face, not in a hurried way which is good. I am faster than him and watch his eyes tear up when I land the second slap against his loose jaw. “You nasty son of a-” Before I can hit him again one of the faces catches my wrist and yells “Mother!” Darrell assures her it’s okay but the woman holding my hand argues, “No, it is NOT okay.” I can tell she is upset as she firmly nestles my hand into my lap. I don’t know her very well but when I look into her eyes I feel it’s safe to trust her. Eyes are the mirror to the soul, I heard that somewhere once.
The sun is shining, casting a light midway across the quilted tulip bedspread. That is a sure indicator that it is past 10 AM. Usually when the rays peek over the headboard I am sitting upright with a cup of coffee half consumed and watching… what is the name of that morning show… Oh well, It doesn’t matter.
“Would you like your egg scrambled or poached?” he asks. I cannot see his face but I know the voice and my heart smiles.
“Scrambled please.” I purr, in my best seductive voice. I love Saturdays. Darrell lets me sleep in and serves me breakfast in bed. I know after the last bite of toast he will kiss the crumbs from my lips and we will make love. I unbutton my gown in anticipation.
“The kids will be coming for dinner.” he says, his voice coming closer. I sit up, smooth my hair and lick my lips. “Charlotte is home for Winter break, she will be coming too.”
“Who is Charlotte?”
“David’s daughter.” he replies. I can’t see his face yet but I sense the change in his tone, cracking slightly over the tinkling of cup against saucer.
“And who is David? Do I know him?”
“He’s your son Beth. Our son.” He says and softly sets the tray across my lap. How is it he has aged so bitterly?
“We have a son named David?… David? Oh yes I remember sweet little Davy. He made me a jewelry box last Christmas… a cigar box covered in dry pasta and painted gold. What did I do with that box? Davy is my baby.”
“He is not a baby anymore Beth.”
“I know that silly!” I tell him as I pick at the ugly lumps of yellow lying before me. “Liz, Liz is the baby now.” Liz, the woman with the eyes I can trust.
“Eat up. Liz and Ron are bringing your favorite dessert and you know you can’t have sweets on an empty stomach.”
“Liz is my daughter; she makes the best Italian Cream cake.” I’m not sure why I said that but it makes him happy.
“Yes sweetie, yes, yes, yes.” Pecking out kisses on my forehead like a starving rooster, he hoovers over the bed smiling. Amidst the rays of sunshine he looks like an angel, a weary angel. His once beautiful face is lined with worry and too many sleepless nights.
“They always come on Sunday.” More words from my mouth, their origin a mystery.
“Yes, yes they do.”
Some days the birds are the only things I understand. The context of their chirps doesn’t change much. Words, warping and twisting themselves into a rope, strangle me. English is a foreign language, a dialect that seems barely recognizable, one I must strain at to recall. Each sentence is a puzzle and I search to find the words that fit… their place, their meaning. Signs and gestures, imported expressions and faces that that fade with the sun – I suppose they are more amicable than the demons at sundown.
I know that one day I will awake and find me gone, forever lost in that void of timeless confusion surrounded by strangers I once loved. Each day is like the next, a never ending procession of things I cannot explain in a world I do not understand. With one transitory exception, they always come on Sunday.
Dedicated on behalf of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month November 2012 by Janna Hill