“Aunt Lucy, your diamond earrings are in here. You gave them to me a year ago for safekeeping. I think it’s time I gave them back to you.”
I took them out of the bag and showed her the diamond post earrings. She gave out a high pitched, “Ohhh.” Nothing much else was said as I was pulled in another direction. Christmas is like that. Snippets of conversation that have no succinct beginning or end. Meals are being served or cleared and dishes are always demanding attention. It wasn’t until later as I drove her to the Assisted Living place she now calls home that we broached the subject again.
“I don’t remember giving you the earrings.” She said into the darkness as the car passed under the lit Holiday decorations that hung across Larkfield Road. “I know Lucy. You were in no condition.” We were silent for a bit and then I added, “You did want them back. Right?” “Yes, I am happy to see them again. You know, I can’t remember anything from that time.”
“We don’t expect you to.” I said this clasping the steering wheel tighter as the GPS cautioned an impending right turn. I have a horrible sense of direction and need gentle prodding from the dashboard.
“I just wish I knew where my things went.” She continued and I didn’t blame her. Her breakdown was so bad and lasted so long that we knew she could never live on her own again. The place she is living now was found and it was my Cousin Carol who moved her things and emptied out the apartment.
“Aunt Lucy, I wasn’t really involved with any of that at the time. I had my surgery and was recuperating while the arrangements were made.” I say this with a sigh. These are facts whose memory neither one of us wants to recall. At the same time as Lucy’s breakdown, I was finally having my breast expander removed and the final reconstructive phase of my plastic surgery. Cancer only in stage one had removed my right breast six months prior. My left breast had to be reduced to match the new one. In the same week, my brother had heart problems and needed surgery himself. To say it was a bad year would be an understatement. Cousin Carol’s Christmas card began; Well, well, well – another crap year has come to an end. It has to get better – it just has to.
A year ago Aunt Lucy was going insane. My mother had passed away in September and Lucy who had been spiraling out of control then already went into a full throttle breakdown. She showed signs of going insane two years ago when it was obvious my mother’s health was failing. We didn’t recognize it immediately. I think my mother was trying to hide it, secretly thinking she could fix Lucy before she died. In truth, it was like lining the shores of a river with sandbags knowing an impending flood is forecast. Sometimes the sandbags work but most of the time you’re bound to get water in the basement. This emotional flood was so much worse. Lucy lost everything and in the end most of her belongings were dispersed. She was involved with the picking and choosing of what went into her room but it was the insane Lucy who made those decisions. Now that medication and electric shock have brought her back the decisions made in the midst of the storm are not what she necessarily wanted.
“You’re happy though right? Still taking yoga and art classes?” I’m not sure why but I wanted to hear her say she was and she did. We hugged on the curb and she went into the building carrying an old paper bag like a purse. She’s still a little quirky. I am actually proud of her. It’s been a tough road but she’s weathered it. We all have.