Today as I am speaking to you through the pages of my life, I am neither conscious of my surroundings nor aware of the traditional anchor points of time. The lack of consciousness is in part by choice, and in part due to the sweeping devastation that is Alzheimer’s disease. My name is Shirley Jean. This story of my life has been told to me and through me and now penned down for the world to see. As we pull back the curtains and peer into my 82 years of existence, I am all at once frightened and taken aback by how quickly the years have passed. I guess I never really gave much thought to the end of my days when I was young; I was too busy chasing my dreams. Lately, the days and the hours and minutes seem to have less importance. It’s a funny thing since we seem to spend most of our lives chasing after those minutes and hours. We seem to always be in a hurry for more time. And I always had a great many things to fill my time.
My existence is unnervingly different now. These days I do nothing. I lie in my bed in the throes of pain brought on by a cycle of anxiety and depression. I am restless, though I suppose that is nothing new. However, worst of all, I am bored. I am bored down to my soul. I feel it ache in my bones. The sound of the ticking clock at my bedside pounds at my brain as it drags across days and weeks of my empty calendar. Tick tock, tick tock. This boredom, this emptiness drives me to the edge of madness.
A Three Day Stay
The day began just as any other day. My nurse, Viola, tugged open the shade to reveal the soft morning light. The plastic shade bumped the cream colored drapes as it rolled up out of sight. The light beams into the room like a spotlight on the plush blue carpet. The dust particles rise and fall around the feet scurrying about my room. It is springtime, and the birds are noisily fluttering around the crape myrtle outside the window. The circular veranda of the plantation style building juts out showing off the grandeur of bright yellow siding and white trim. The stately columns and large green rocking chairs look inviting, though there is no one out.
The low-lying shrubs offer no color, and the trees are too densely planted. Cheap red mulch haphazardly mixes with even cheaper gray gravel. Landscaping should be welcoming and full of vibrancy – unfolding naturally in the surrounding space. The landscaping I see out of my window is lazy, a nod to its captive audience no doubt.
The sunlight warms my face as it streams through the window. I long to be outside in the world. If I was, the first thing I would do is fix that shitty landscaping. In actuality, I’d have my grandson fix it. He always did an excellent job of implementing my plans, and young men need things to do to keep themselves busy. I had a genuine knack for landscape and design in my heyday, and people took notice.
As I sit quietly in my bed lost in thought, the muffled voices of the people in my room begin to intrude upon my solitude. Turning back to look at them I know they are wondering about my silent eyes that are absent from both the present and the past. The figures move about like ghosts around my body in fuzzy frames; I am looking right through them as if some strange dimension has washed over the room. There is a waltz of straightening, poking, prodding. Viola is looking at me, but she does not see me.
Continue reading “An Excerpt from The Book of Shirley Jean”