It's freezing outside, but we're toasty warm here inside.
You in your big blue lazy-boy chair, me sitting on your bed, basking in the sunlight pouring through the hospice window. Sochi and the Olympics playing out mute on TV.
We're silently enjoying the cherries I brought you earlier this morning. Just you and me. It's a nice, quiet moment, father and daughter. Normal.
"Have some more" you say. "I bought them to share; what's mine is yours." You smile and wink. It's almost as if you're joking. But you're not. You actually believe you brought the cherries.
You look up at me suddenly. "Who's your dad?" you ask.
I shyly point to you. "YOU, Daddy, YOU'RE my dad!" I make a silly face.
Trying to make light of a very awkward moment. Awkward for you, awkward for me.
We both make a twisty silly face, pretending you hadn't actually forgotten.
After all, I tell myself, yesterday you told me that no one says "Papa" quite the way I do. Obviously you still know I'm your 43-year-old baby girl.
You nod your head in acknowledgement. But there's confusion and fear in your eyes now. You know you should know but you don't.
It's another first. A first in reverse. A fucking kick-in-the-nuts Alzheimer's moment.
The first time you're not one hundred percent sure who I am.
I'm thankful, though, because at least my face, my touch, my smell still bring you comfort.
But for how long?
Who needs the comfort right now? Who needs to remember right now? You or me?
As the memories slip away, I wonder does it hurt you more to fight to keep them or to just give them up?
I look at you and every single bit of you is etched in the wrinkles on your face and in the twinkle in your eye that refuses to fade. On the outside, on the surface, everything is as it always was. Well, other than the shakiness in your legs when you stand, the hollow in your cheeks, the protruding shoulder blades upon which muscle and fat used to lay solid. Other than the fucking tumor that is crushing your lungs and making it harder and harder to breathe. And the fact that yesterday I heard you say no one could ever imagine feeling this bad.
It hurts my heart.
And I fight back the tears. "Big, fat crocodile tears" you used to call them.
Because I'm a big girl now.
43 years old.
Nobody's baby girl anymore.
And I replay the confusion and the fear in your eyes over and over again in my mind.
And know there's not a fucking thing I can do to help you. Nothing but fail you over and over again, every day the same, every day a little bit worse.
And sit here silently for a few more days, eating cherries, holding your hand, singing bits and pieces of old Hank Snow tunes with you, basking in the sun, and watching you fade into the darkness.
And in seven days, I'll say goodbye. I know it will be the last goodbye. I know I'll remember it forever. I pray you'll forget it as soon as I'm gone.
Yet I pray you'll remember me.
It hurts my soul.
And the floodgates open.