“Are you doing this on purpose?” Often that’s the first thing I want to ask Emma. Well, of course she is. Why else would this be happening? Or, well (pun on the author’s name absolutely intended in this bizarre and often contradictory new world in which Emma and I now find ourselves), maybe not. In any case, look in the mirror – you (as in “I”) may be next.
I died in 2001, in October. That’s when my life as I knew it ended; that’s when I as I knew myself ceased existence. That’s when Emma began to lose herself, too. But I didn’t know it yet.
I had lived in Redondo Beach, California, for 30 years, my entire adult life so far, raised my daughter there. Then for the winter of 1995 I decided to go to Naples, Florida, for a working vacation. I could stay with Emma, who owned a villa there. I stayed longer than I planned; I liked my job. Then Emma suffered a mini stroke. Her blood pressure was through the roof; the doctor put her in the hospital for a few days, on oxygen.
When we took her into the hospital and were in the emergency room, the doctor came into our little area and said, “Do you know what time it is?” I very helpfully looked at the clock on the wall and told him. Oh. He was asking Emma, to test her brain function. She was O.K. She did know the time. That was in about 1996. Emma was 81. But, good thing I was there when the mini stroke occurred. She told me at the time, “I started to take out BeeGee (her apricot toy poodle) and got dizzy and suddenly lost feeling and movement in my right arm and leg.” We called the doctor and rushed her to the hospital. I guess I was meant to be there; I don’t know what would have happened to her had I not been.
She recovered and was fine after that. Meanwhile, though, looking back, I can see now that she exhibited what may have been small signs of dementia – making less than the best decision, being a little less capable, overlooking something, sometimes being mean. But, generally, she was herself. After all, she was in her 80s, and doing great for that age.
BeeGee (nickname for Beau Geste) was a sweet and noble little man – who chased horses across the TV screen and into the other room – and thought I was God. Every time a Florida thunderstorm would come, BeeGee would quiver and quiver until the storm got over us and let loose. The stronger his quivering the more violent the storm coming. Lightning and thunder unleashing their powerful blows, BeeGee would run and hide in a dark corner in the hall between the laundry room and bathroom. The storm continuing, he’d come to me in my room. I’d pick him up and hold him in my arms on the bed with me. By then, the storm had subsided, and I’m quite sure BeeGee thought I was responsible.
In 2000 Emma sold her villa and moved up north to be near her family and friends in Delaware. I drove her and BeeGee up there in her white Caddy; she and I shared the driving. I left Emma and BeeGee at the Atlantic City airport on a rainy Sunday morning and flew back to Florida. Little did I know, that was the last I would see BeeGee. Some weeks later, Emma called me to tell me he had died – gotten into some rat poison or something in her apartment. She held him in her arms while his life seeped out of him. He was only 4. Emma blamed herself.