I should have known that true happiness could not last long. I should have known. It was the stuff of fairy tales, to suppose that I could go for the rest of my life feeling fulfilled with my hobbies and happy at home.
The club was great. In fact, All About Me was thriving. As many members as we could fit in the top of Break Down, all joining together once a week to enjoy music and each other’s company.
But home? To be entirely open… I was worried about Candy.
At this point, I was no longer in denial about my own immortality. I was an adult. I was aging. But Candy, it seemed, was aging much faster. It seemed inevitable that she would… that she would… that she would be gone before I was.
Janie: “Candy? Are you coming inside?”
Candy: “…what? I’m outside?”
But it wasn’t only her physical life that I was concerned with. My mother had been a relatively sound woman, keeping a hold of her mental capacity until she died. But she was less than healthy—it was entirely possible that she passed before her time, before her mind had time to decay. But Candy… she was healthy. And the vitality of her life was beginning to make more prominent the decline of her mental acuity.
Candy: “Hey there, little kid.”
Janie: “…you mean B? Our daughter?”
Candy: “Of course I know she’s our daughter! I just… felt like calling her little kid.”
It was one thing to lose Candy to the inevitability of aging. But I was not ready to face the fact that I might lose my Candy even before she died. People who lose their memory, who acquire dementia, whose minds decline, aren’t the same people they were before. And I wasn’t ready to have to adjust to someone new. I wanted my Candy.
In light of that, I slowed down my busy schedule. All About Me was important to me, of course, and I didn’t want to let the members down. But, at this moment, my wife was more important. I didn’t know how much time I had left with her.
I insisted that we move our official bedroom to the guest bedroom downstairs. I excused it by saying that I missed sleep with Candy, and if she insisted on sleeping there I would sleep there with her. But, in reality, I just wanted to take away any large reason for Candy to go up and down the stairs in the middle of the night, when she might be more tired and not paying close attention. She’d already fallen once (she wouldn’t admit it to me, but I heard the thumps of her falling down the steps), and I didn’t want to tempt fate.
I much preferred it this way, anyhow. I had missed sleeping next to my wife.
I tried to keep my concerns and Candy’s declining health from you, B. I don’t know how successful I was, but I hope I gave you some peace when you were that young. I hope I provided you some relief from what could have been a huge burden on your small shoulders. I wanted you to focus on friends and fun and homework, not your mother’s health.
Candy: “Looking good, hot stuff.”
In the meantime, I tried to keep in shape. It was a strange dichotomy. As much as I knew that Candy’s healthy body was what was leading to her mental decline, I wanted to keep my own body as healthy as possible. For whatever reason, I thought that I would be the exception—just because Candy’s body outlasted her mind didn’t mean that my mind and body couldn’t remain solid until the day I died.
And Candy appreciated it.
Candy: “Hey, little kid. You knw the lady that lives in that house?”
B: “…You mean Mom, Mommy?”
Candy: “Sure, whatever. She’s hot.”
I did my best to spend time with you, do things that would stimulate your mind.
Janie: “You like this song, Candy? I wrote it for you. It’s called For the Love of C.”
Candy: “It’s fine. You wanna make out?”
Janie: “Do you want to go to the museum with me? We could look at the art. I hear they have a new photography exhibition.”
Candy: “No thanks.”
Janie: “Maybe this song will do it…”
Candy still maintained her position at Blue Velvet—they didn’t mind that she was a little off in the head. She still played as well as she ever had (that is to say, not that well, but not horribly), and her new eccentricity intrigued the guests. It seemed that she wouldn’t stop talking about the hot lady that lived down the street…
At least I had the limited peace of mind, knowing that she was talking about me.
And it wasn’t like she didn’t recognize us all the time. In fact, most times, she was entirely lucid, if a bit less inhibited. And the worst of her problems, most days, was growing a bit dazed, staring off into space at nothing.
But it was only a matter of time.
I wasn’t ready.
Janie: “B! What happened?!”
B: “I got in a fight. Someone called Mommy crazy.”
But you weren’t either. And, I’m sure, neither had Candy been. She was always so cheerful, but I had to wonder, lying awake at night, if she realized that, sometimes, she wasn’t entirely right.
Janie: “Candy? Are you alright?”
Your fight, B, startled me into a realization.
I had been so concerned with how I was coping with Candy’s decline that I didn’t consider how you were feeling about it. But, more importantly, I didn’t consider how Candy was feeling about it.
I resolved then—I wouldn’t try to combat the changes in Candy. This was an inevitability. It was aging. It was life. And fighting the natural declination of her mental acuity would only make her feel worse about her problems, and make you feel as if there was something in your mommy that was sick, or broken, or that needed to be changed.
Candy didn’t need to change. I just needed to adapt, and help her last years be as content as they possibly could. And I needed to spend as much as time as possible with my wife, regardless of whether she always recognized me as such. If need be, I could be the hot woman down the street too…