“You're on in five...four...three...two...one...” Theme music...
...“Welcome! I'm your host Jenna Wade and this is “Talking With Jenna”, the show where you never know who's on the hot seat and where the conversation will go. Our guest today is Andrew Brevins, the Deputy Director of the C.I.A. and we will be talking about the Government's response during the aftermath of 9/11. Have American families who lost loved ones to the Terrorist Attack found closure to this terrible event?”
“Welcome Deputy Director Brevins...”, Jenna said warmly as she shifted her petite frame to face the guest sitting at the other end of the couch.
The young female guest stuttered, “I-I think you mean Jean Goldson. I'm here about...”
Off camera, the crew stood confused and the show's Director, frantic. Gesturing toward the Teleprompter, the Director tried to get Jenna's attention.
Jenna continued, “Tell me Mr. Brevins, isn't it about time the Government comes clean and admit...”
“I'm Jean, …..Jean Goldson. I am here about my new book...”
“Answer the question! Don't you think the government owes the American people?...”
“You have me confused with someone else. I'm J-Jean.....”, the young guest's nervous voice trembled.
“You knew the truth about 9/11, didn't you? What have you to say for yourself, you sorry son of a bitch!” Jenna yelled.
“Cut to commercial! CUT TO COMMERCIAL!”
Theme music, and voice over “Stay tuned. We'll be right back!”
The moment the commercial started, the Floor Manager escorted the shaken guest off the set while the visibly upset Director strode up to Jenna.
“What the hell was that Jenna?” he hissed through gritted teeth.
Jenna returned a blank stare.
“Are you committing suicide on air?” he rasped, “What the hell was all that about?”
“You interrupted my interview, Donnie. Why did you do that?” Jenna finally asked.
“Damn it, Jenna, pull yourself together! Your guest is Jean Goldson, the fresh new author of a science fiction novel that is flying off the shelves. Now get your head back in there and do the interview!” Donnie hissed.
Jenna's face went white.
“I'm sorry Donnie. I-I-I don't know what came over me. I swear, ....it felt so real...”, Jenna gasped, her voice cracking. The talk show host shuddered as she realized that she had confused the young guest with another interviewee she had on the show five years ago. This was not the first time Jenna had experienced such profound confusion, but she had always managed to hide it from everyone.
“I don't know what the hell is the matter with you Jenna, but you better get back in the game. We're on in five.” Donnie said, as he turned and strode back to his chair between the cameras.
Jenna's interview with Jean Goldson continued without further incident but the damage was already done. Immediate reactions through phone calls, tweets, blog posts, and comments on the show's Youtube channel were harsh. Viewers could not understand why after fifteen years as an award-winning talk show host, Jenna Wade went off the deep end.
Jenna's face was a mask of confusion later that evening in her meeting with the Network Executives. Nothing she said in explanation made sense to the six executives seated around the imposing oak table in the expansive conference room. Jenna was too ashamed to admit why she crashed on air.
“I'm sorry Jenna, but your behavior earlier is unacceptable and it had cost our Network much-needed ratings...”, growled Jason Thorpe, the Chief Executive Officer of Telecorp, the network that owned the rights to the show.
Jenna wished she was at home with her cat, Fancy. Without realizing she was doing it, she began to hum the lullaby she normally did for Fancy.
“Miss Wade!”, the CEO barked, “Do you realize the shit you've caused?”
With a far away look in her eyes, Jenna got up and walked absently toward the window still humming.
“That's it! You're off the air!”,the Network Boss barked, the loud bang of his palm on wood punctuated his exasperation. He instructed that the Legal Department prepare Jenna's contract termination letter and that Accounts prepare her final payments.
Jenna was still humming when a nervous Bianca, her Production Assistant. retrieved her from the empty conference room. Jenna's daughter, Kimberly, received the call shortly after to come get her mom.
The news of Jenna's public meltdown made the rounds on almost every rival news and entertainment network. Telecorp released a tersely worded statement, voiced over a still photograph of the smiling Jenna Wade, that until further notice, the “Talking With Jenna Show' was off the air.
Kimberly and her sister Amber sobbed as they gravely approached the pink casket at the front of the altar. The other mourners solemnly approached the casket to pay their last respects to the woman lying peacefully inside. While some whispered their goodbyes, others wailed in anguish causing the sisters to sob even louder.
“Mommy! Why did you have to leave?” Kimberly wailed, as her sister and uncle tried to support her as she went limp.
The large church was filled to capacity as the Thanksgiving Service for the life of Jenna Antonia Wade commenced.
Three weeks later as the sisters went through their mother's books, they came upon her journal. Kimberly leafed through the leather bound book and gasped.
“Amber....”, she whispered.
Amber peered over her older sister's shoulder and read the title and first entry.
Holding on to Myself, by Jenna Wade
October 22, 2006
“That's seven years ago!” she gasped.
I don't know why this has happened to me at this stage of my life. Why Alzheimer's choose me. I really thought that you have to be a certain age to have this disease. This is not something that happens to a forty-five-year-old, could it? Doctor Cargill called it “Early Onset Alzheimer's” as if that would make it any more palatable. I wished it was not true, that it would simply go away. I must not lose myself...I must remain in control.
October 30, 2006
I did something stupid today. I locked myself out of the house and couldn't get in. The damn thing was that I forgot where I put my keys. I looked everywhere for them until I gave up and called the locksmiths. Can you imagine that? I later found them in the mailbox. The postcards I planned to mail today were in my purse.
November 15, 2006
I had to go back to the doctor today because I'm scared. I find that I'm more forgetful than usual. Not anything major mind you, the occasional name of colleagues and friends, and my lines in the script (thank God for Teleprompters). Doctor Cargill was so nice about this. He tried to reassure me that this is normal and that all I need to do is to write things down so that I won't forget. Ha ha, easier said than done. I will give it a try, though. That's one reason I'm doing this journal. To never forget.
The sisters continued reading their mother's journal, and over the following week, they got together every evening at Kimberly's apartment to read what their mom had to say. As they read, it dawned on them that all along they had missed the signs. The day Kimberly visited only to find her mom sitting in the darkened house, the curtains were drawn, the bedroom musty with the smell of an unwashed body, and the cat unfed.
Tears of shame rolled down Kimberly's cheeks as she remembered how badly she had berated her mom for allowing herself to go without a bath for nearly five days. Kimberly had gone to her mom's because of Bianca's frantic message that Jenna had not come to work for nearly a week and her phone calls to the talk show host had gone unanswered. Kimberly's turbulent relationship with her mom further deteriorated that day.
“Oh my God.”, Amber gasped as she read her mom's entry for June 6, 2010.
“I didn't know...”
It was the beginning of the Summer Break from college and eighteen-year-old Amber had waited for hours on campus for her mom to pick her up. Jenna had promised that she would drive the 45 miles from home to collect her so she would not have to take the bus. Amber waited and as evening drew closer, she became anxious, hoping that her mom would come running, out of breath, and apologetic, as she usually did when late. She never came.
As Amber read her mom's entry the disappointment and anger that she had felt gave way to sympathy for the woman who had actually started the journey but had become hopelessly lost after two hours on the road. Kimberly recalled how sympathetic the police officers were when they arrived with the confused woman to her apartment. Jenna was tired and bedraggled and looked nothing like the glamorous diva recognizable from her television show and the covers of entertainment and style magazines. “We found your name and address as an emergency contact in her purse, as she could not tell us where she lived.” one of the two officers had said. “She didn't have her driver's license.”
The entries in Jenna's journal became fewer and less coherent as time passed. Her final, scrawled, entry was around October 2012 but there was no way to be sure. Kimberly tried to make sense of the confusing chronology without success, and could only guess that after November 2010, entries either had no date or were incorrectly dated.
I thought I could do it, but I can't. This monstrous disease is robbing me of myself. There are days when I don't know who I am or wear I am. Those are terribel days when I want to die...What is worse than death? Losing myself, my memories mere whispers.
The last entry was in another handwriting.
May 27, 2013
I found this journal and thought it would be a good idea to make this entry to let you know what had happened to Jenna during the eighteen months after she lost her job.
After her show was canceled by the Network, Jenna went home and never came out. I tried to call her right after but could not get to her so I left work to check in on her and found her in bed. As she got sicker, Jenna needed constant care, which I arranged with her doctor. Jenna begged me not to call her family. The last two months were especially painful as she lost touch with who I was and stopped talking about family. How I wished I had called Kimberly.
Kimberly whispered, “you should have called me Bianca” but realized instantly that she was the one who should have paid more attention to her mom since that fateful evening after the ax fell.
Bianca's entry continued.
I didn't know then that Jenna was going through this road alone, Alzheimer's... but all I know is that I am truly blessed to have the privilege of working with this wonderful woman. I learned so much. She was so full of life and joy. I noticed the little changes that were taking place at work but at that time, I thought they were just her quirkiness showing. How were we to know that she was struggling with Alzheimer's?
The Network is sorry. Mr. Thorpe is thinking of setting up a foundation in her memory to honor all persons afflicted with this disease and their families. I hope you won't mind that they are thinking of making me the program manager. After all, that is the least I can do for my friend.
Kimberly slowly closed the journal and stared through tears as the orange rays of the setting sun painted the graying sky. The sisters hugged and their bodies shook as they sobbed together.
Word count 1992