While night settled on Blue Hydrangeas, Jack and Sara lay nestled on the couch, wrapped in a hand-knit afghan, and clinging to each other as silent as stones.
The lights were out, a crackling fire lit the room, and shadows danced on the walls. He cradled her in his arms and stared into space, detached. She focused on the fire, unyielding in his embrace, so far away. The Bach he had put on the CD player had long ended. Outside, the first snowfall of winter blanketed Cape Cod.
He had done all he could to make this evening the same as any other, but this godawful quiet made everything seem so wrong. After forty-five years of marriage, it wouldn’t have surprised him if they had run out of things to say, but not a day ended without some new insight or tidbit of information passing between them. They shared everything—their deepest fears, their most private thoughts. Tonight, there was nothing, just this palpable silence, as they ruminated separately on their visit to Dr. Fallon and the horrifying news he had given them.
Jack pondered the same troublesome thoughts over and over, making no progress in absorbing the doctor’s diagnosis. He knew enough about Alzheimer’s to fill him with fear, a fear he had not experienced since his days as a medic in World War II. Back then he had lived in anticipation of the next strike, the next slew of injured and casualties. He could not sleep. He could not eat. Uncertainty consumed every moment. Sara’s Alzheimer’s filled him with the same fear and anxiety. He did not know what to expect, or when, or how bad it would be.
Some situations defy words, and there were no words, no phony reassurances, to make this right. If there were, he could not pretend to know them.
The room grew dark as the fire burned low. The logs he had stoked an hour before were turning to ash. Neither of them had the drive or the energy to get up and throw on another log.
At last, she broke through the mournful silence. “I’m going to lose everything,” she said, her voice a hoary whisper, a voice he had never heard before.
“Don’t say that,” he started, but she interrupted.
“Whatever happens,” she said, “stay with me. I can’t bear to suffer through this without you.” A single tear rolled down her cheek.
“Sh,” Jack whispered. He brushed away the tear, and made a promise only prayer would help him keep. “Nothing like that is going to happen. I’ll never leave you. We’re staying right here.” He pulled the afghan tighter around them, sealing out the chill that slowly descended on the room as the fire waned.
They sat in silence for a long time, long enough for the fire to go out, and then he helped her off the couch and took her to bed.
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