“You’re on your way to the hospital, right?” my mom asks over the phone.
“Yeah, I’ll be there soon” I reply, barely dodging a child running across the hallway, “I gotta go mom. I’ll talk to you soon.”
“If he… you know…” I turn around to see where the child is running to, “tell him we love him.”
The boy runs into the arms of a man wearing a hospital gown. The man is taken back by his son’s momentum, but he leans forward and buries his face on his son’s neck. He whispers something to the boy then begins to sob.
I never realized how important memories are. The words to your favorite song. The taste of your favorite food. The way it hurt when you fall off your bike for the first time. Sometimes we take these for granted. Memories spent with friends become trivial. Block parties and sleepovers become ignorable fragments we remember from time to time. Do we need them? Technically, they aren’t essential to everyday survival. For a long time, I didn’t appreciate the importance of these hazy cloud of memories.
But by the time I learned, it may have been too late.
My dad worked at the school district for over thirty years. He was a numbers man; he could calculate anything in his head fasted than anyone I know can. He helped with budgets, kept an eye on thousands of students, and organized fundraisers. On his days off he would hang out with me and my siblings, help us with our homework, and take care of the house. The man never stopped. He was always ready to take on the world in go mode. I always wondered how one man can do so much in his life every day. Nothing could stop him.
Until one day, he started getting a series of strokes.
None of them were too bad. The doctors say he could go back to work soon. He assured us that he would be fine and back to normal. What we didn’t know was that piece by piece, his memories would begin to disappear.
It started slow. Sometimes, he would forget his keys or the day of the week. There were days when he would walk out of the house with no pants on. For a while, we tried to brush it off. We all had a good laugh and just chalked it up to the guy getting old. Dad is 53 for crying out loud. He has some road miles on him, so we cut him some slack. When he forgets words in his sentence, we would help him out. If he forgot his keys, we would bring them to him. When he mixed up my name with my siblings, we’d give his mind a gentle tap and correct him. For a period of time, we thought it would be bearable.
But one night, the lighthearted laughter began to turn into deathly silence. Hours after he was supposed to clock out of work, my family waited at the living room for dad to come home. And for hours more, we brushed it off, thinking he picked up something at the store or visited a friend.
Dad forgot to find his way home
I remember running out to look for him. For hours we scoured the city, looking everywhere he might be. Eventually, my brother found his car at the mall. The car was sitting in the parking lot, with the headlights on and the engine running. Inside was my dad, frozen like a statue. His hands were cold on the steering wheel and his eyes were locked on the windshield.
My brother drove my dad home that night. For a while, he stayed in his frozen state. And then he asks my brother,
“Where am I?”
“You’re okay dad. You’re with me. We’re heading home.”
Immediately, he began to kick and shout.
“Take me home,” he says, shaking my brother as he drives, “take me home!”
He stayed that way through the drive. When they got home, my brother tried explaining to my dad that he was already home. But dad didn’t understand.
It took him two hours to get dad inside the house. It was then when we realized how bad it was getting.
There was a time when the man could solve my calculus homework in his head. He can’t even spell his name anymore. He can’t get dressed by himself anymore. Can’t go to the bathroom by himself anymore. He can’t even remember what food he liked and didn’t like.
Just like that, the smartest man I knew, my superhero, can’t remember my name. This would go on for days or weeks at a time, and then, just like that, he would be normal again. He would remember.
For a little bit, life would give me back the dad I know, and then take him back away from me just like that.
By the time admitted him to the hospital, there was almost nothing left. I hate seeing him locked in some supervised room every hour of the day, but I know it was for the best. We can’t leave alone because he would end up hurting himself or someone else. I do my best to visit him every day though. I don’t want my dad to think that he is going through this alone.
Even if he doesn’t know who I am.
“Monday” He smiles as I walked into the room.
Part of this cycle was remembering every day as Monday. I not my head.
“Yes dad, its Monday.”
I grab a chair and sit next to his bed, holding his hand. His palms are cold to the touch, letting off a chilly sensation that runs through my spine.
“Monday!” His smile grows.
I began to choke up, I grip his hand tighter letting out a few tears.
“Son,” he says.
The world suddenly pauses. He acknowledged me. He knew who I was. I wipe a few tears from my eyes and look into his weary, gray eyes. For a split second, I had my dad back. Everything is back to normal.
But life is not as merciful as we imagine.
“It’s here,” He says, smiling. “it’s here.”
“What’s here?” I ask. He gazes at me silently. I get up and get closer, holding him by the shoulder. Gently, he grabs my hand and puts it against his face. He smiles again.
“It’s here, son.”
And then I understood.
The smile from his face fades, and his grip on my hand weakens. His gaze grows cold every second his eyes lock onto mine.
He was gone.
I could see it in his eyes. Everything he has come to know from the moment he was born has been erased. The great man was not but a husk of his former self.
“Happy Monday, dad.”
Roy Holley is a 19-year old underachiever. In his free time, he enjoys binge watching Netflix and eating as much food as possible. He also spends as much time as he can making memories with his friends and family.