Fear clawed its way into Frank’s mind every time the doctor’s words found their way back into his consciousness. Loneliness was a new emotion that he hadn’t entertained for fifty years, not since the day he married Elizabeth. Frank was afraid of being alone.
“Elizabeth’s symptoms are typical in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, Frank. Her memory will degrade at a rapid rate from this point on. She’s in her own world now, a place we don’t fully understand, but every day new discoveries are …”
“Will she ever come back … ever remember who I am?”
“I’m hesitant to say never, Frank, but in Elizabeth’s case I’m certain my diagnosis is correct. She's somewhere else now. Nobody who goes there ever comes back."
Frank fluffed a pillow and placed it behind Elizabeth’s head and turned on the television. Oprah was coming on. He thought he saw a glint in her eye, a slight smile cross her face. Did she recognize Oprah, he wondered.
“Would you like a cup of tea, Elizabeth?” Frank asked. She didn’t respond.
Frank stood in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil. While pulling two cups down from their hooks, he held back the tears. He had never felt so alone, but he knew he had to be strong for Elizabeth’s sake. Two lumps of sugar for him and one for her, just the way it had always been.
He set the tea next to his wife, at her left elbow, the place where she liked it. “Within easy reach,” she always said.
Frank sat down next to his wife, on her right side. It’s where he always sat. He placed her hand in his. “I love you, Elizabeth,” he said.
“I love you, too, Frank,” she whispered, barely audible.