Every muscle in Sue’s body screamed for relief from the hours of unpacking. She pulled the bandana from her red hair, wandered into the sunroom, and sank into a cushiony recliner chair. A bang jolted her from her brief repose.
She stood and saw a petite, white-haired Japanese woman pounding on one of the sunroom’s glass windows. A tall, elderly man hobbled to her side and yelled, “Michiko, yamete, yamete!”
Sue opened the door, “Hi, is there a problem?”
“I’m sorry; my wife has Alzheimer’s disease. I opened the door to take her for a walk and she got away from me. The breathless man grabbed the agitated woman’s wrists, “Michiko, yamete--stop!” Panting, she struggled to be free of his grasp.”
“I see. My name is Sue Clark, I moved here yesterday.”
“My name is David Baker and this is my wife Michiko. We live next door.”
“I’m glad to meet you both. Please come inside. We can get to know one another while you catch your breath.”
“Thank you, we will.”
Mr. Baker guided Michiko indoors to a settee and sat beside her. She immediately stood and wandered around the large room. The multi-colored pads caught her attention for a few minutes.
“Kirei, kirei.” She repeated, tracing the red roses with her finger.
“She says the flowers are pretty.”
Sue smiled, locked the door and asked, “Mr. Baker would you and Michiko like a glass of lemonade?”
“Yes, thank you. Please call me Dave.”
“And call me Sue. Excuse me I need to get more glasses.”
Sue returned in less than half a minute with two containers of lemonade. She gave the glass to Dave, the plastic cup to Michiko.
“Thank you. What brought you to this area, Sue?”
“I’m a nurse and the new Director of a local one-hundred bed Alzheimer’s unit, which opens next week. I have worked with Alzheimer residents and their families for ten years. My father died from the disease last fall.”
“I’m sorry. I read about the new facility in the paper.”
“Thank you. How long has your wife been like this?” Sue asked nodding toward Michiko who stood in front of a window sipping lemonade.
“Several years, but her memory deteriorated after a bout of flu last year. Michiko spoke fluent English but she reverted to speaking Japanese after the illness. She didn’t recognize me and now calls me Gaijin which means foreigner.”
Dave stared at the floor as he spoke but jerked his head up when Michiko dropped the empty cup. Sue calmly placed the container on the table.
Dave’s puffy eyes gazed at Sue as he said, “We have been married for fifty-five years and she doesn’t know who I am anymore. Our son and daughter live out of state. Michiko didn’t recognize them when they visited last year.”
“I’m sorry, Dave; my mother said half of her died with Dad when he lost his memory.”
Dave dabbed his eyes. “She’s correct. The disease robs you of your loved one. The real Michiko died two years ago. She used to operate a lucrative catering business. People from miles around bought her home-cooked Japanese food. Michiko was a wonderful mother and wife. She used to enjoy church work and helping others. Now, she is the one who needs help.”
“The new facility is nearby, Dave. If she resided there, you could visit her as often as you like. The good part is you would be able to come home and sleep, clean, read, do whatever you like and know Michiko is well-cared for and safe.”
Michiko interrupted their conversation by banging on a glass window. She shouted, “Gaijin, uchi ni kaeritai!"
Dave stood and moved to Michiko’s side. “Hai, hai.”
“She says, ‘I want to go home.’ But she says that even when she is at home. We better leave.”
Sue removed a card from her pocket and handed it to Dave. “I’ll let you know when we are ready to open the new unit. My home telephone number is on the card if you need me to help you with Michiko’s care.”
Dave grabbed Michiko’s hand and opened the door. “Thank you. I’ll think about what you said. Maybe it is time for me to let go.”
Sue nodded and closed the glass door. She watched the pair shuffle across the yard and enter their house. Settling into the recliner chair she prayed before dozing off, “Lord, please use me to minister to this afflicted couple.”
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