Penny got out of the car and once again found herself sitting in the musty old community hall surrounded by dementia sufferers and their loved ones. Chloe had insisted that she come to the meeting before they all headed off on their road trip.
Miss pink and perky was wearing a yellow sun dress with a lemon cardigan. Penny smiled up at her as she addressed the room. ‘Welcome everybody, we have a couple of new faces here with us today, please make them feel welcome and remember, this is a safe space.’ Today, Penny saw her in a more positive light. Al least she is trying to bring some happiness and colour to this depressing dull place.
After many a tear being shed on Chloe’s shoulder, Penny had made a conscious decision to see these meetings as an opportunity to learn as much as she could about the disease, and try to stay positive. Surely it’s not all bloody doom and gloom.
Today, they were doing an exercise where both the person with dementia and their carer, were asked to share with the group, three things that scared them about the diagnosis. Penny found it confronting, but decided to be brave and tackle it head on.
Hamish had accompanied her to the meeting as Chloe was finalising things at the café. The siblings held hands as they started to go around the hall and share their stories. People were at varying stages of their disease, so not all were able to contribute.
One woman, who’s husband and just been diagnosed, volunteered to go first. The rest of the room breathed a collective sigh of relief. She turned to face him and took his aged, yet handsome features in her withered hands. Her voice was shaking as she began to speak.
‘Harold, we have been married for sixty-one years. They have been the happiest years of my life. You mean the world to me. We have had a wonderful marriage. I cannot recall ever having gone to bed angry with each other in all these years. You have been a loving and hardworking husband and an amazing father to our three boys, who thankfully, all take after you.’
The look of pure and utter adoration in her eyes was unmistakable and there was not a dry eye in the hall. The lady continued as her husband brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it tenderly. ‘I am afraid you will forget all of our adventures together. Having our children, travelling, and our love for each other. I am afraid I will lose my patience with you when you don’t remember things. During our whole marriage, I can’t recall ever having raised my voice at you. I am afraid of watching the most beautiful soul I have ever known, slowly fade away in front of me, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.’
Her husband wiped away her tears, reached into his pocket and handed her a clean handkerchief. She turned her seat back to face the others in the room, and whispered through muffled sobs, ‘That right there is why he is my rock, and I’d be lost without him. He is always there for me.’
Her husband told her he was mostly afraid of forgetting who she was. He told her that she was more beautiful today, than she was the day he married her, and he didn’t want to ever forget her pretty face.
It was a sad yet beautiful thing to watch, and an ever increasing flutter of butterflies let lose in Penny’s stomach as she waited for their turn.
Unpublished work (c) Hayley Walsh 2020