Like the Rain in Seattle
by Brandon Jenkins
Outside, the rain pounded the earth like bullets as the storm released the sweet aroma of pine needles and rosewater. Inside, the lobby smelled like band-aids and the white walls reminded me of an institution.
I shook the water off my umbrella and entered the lobby of the assisted living home. I’ve seen the lady behind the desk three times a week for the past two years and she still asks my name and whom I’m there to see. I dropped the bouquet of flowers on the desk and signed my name next to the column reading Room 3B.
Three days a week for the past two years and I still get nervous every time I walk down the hallway. I open the door slowly. I always open the door very slowly.
The room is dark and I can barely make out my mother’s silhouette in the corner. She’s sitting at a small table with the dead flowers I had brought in a few weeks earlier.
“Who’s there,” her weak voice calls out. “Tell me who’s there.”
“It’s me mom,” I say as I quietly shut the door behind me. “It’s Allison.”
“Allison?” she asks. “Allison who?” This was always the hardest part of the visit. Every time I visit I know it’s coming but it still makes my heart drop.
“It’s your daughter,” I tell her. “Mind if I turn the light on? It’s awfully dark in here.” I reach over to a desk lamp on her nightstand and click it on. I know the lamp is dim enough not to startle her. She doesn’t say anything but squints her eyes as if the whole room just lit up. “Let me replace those flowers for you mom.” I walked slowly over toward her–her eyes studying my every step. I pulled the dead flowers out of the vase and replaced them with the new ones. Roses, dandelions and gerber daisies with baby breath. I step down on the foot lever that lifts the top of the waste basket and trash the dead flowers.
“Those flowers are dead,” she says. “I don’t know where they came from but they’re dead.”
“I brought them for you mom.” I sat down on the opposite side of the table. “They’re two weeks old. That’s why they’re dead.” She didn’t speak but continued to stare at me as if I was a stranger. “These ones have gerber daisies. Remember how much you’ve always loved gerber daisies?”
“The white ones,” she said and nodded her head toward the flowers.
“Yes!” I said in a low but excited voice. “The white ones are the gerber daisies. Those were always your favorite.”
“Gerber daisies,” she said aloud to herself as if she was trying to remember how to pronounce the words. It was these small flashes of recollection which got me through the week; these little glimpses of sudden awareness to her surroundings which made these visits a little less gut-wrenching. Her eyes moved from the flowers to my face and she says, “And who are you?”
I take it back–what I said about the hardest part being when I first entered her room. This is actually the hardest part. The part where her memory seems to snap into place but then completely disappears again.
“I’m your daughter,” I say deep into her eyes. “My name is Allison.”
She stared back into my eyes and whispered my name back to me. “I had a daughter named Allison once.”
“You still do,” I say trying not get too excited again. “That’s me, momma. I’m Allison.” She shook her head back and forth and reminded me that Allison was a young girl who used to play the piano. “That was me momma. That was forty years ago. I’ve grown up.” I grabbed my purse off the table and pulled out a picture of my family. “I’ve got two children now. They’re your grandchildren. They’ve been here to visit you several times.” I placed the picture down on the table in front of her. She looked at the picture carefully, as if it might be a bomb. Finally she picked it up and scrutinized it.
“Jack and Amy,” she says in a low voice.
“Yes!” My voice shoots up louder than I anticipate. “Yes! It’s actually John and Amy but yes! They’re your grandchildren.” I don’t want to get carried away because I know it won’t last. Her memory never lasts. It comes and goes throughout the day just like the rain in Seattle.
“John,” she says. “He plays baseball.”
“Yes!” I start crying and reach under the table to put my hand on her knee. “You remember.” I’m bawling at this point and my make up starts running down my cheeks. “You remember how much he loves baseball.”
“Amy,” she lets the name linger on the tip of her tongue. “I can’t remember what Amy does.”
“It’s okay,” I assure her. “It’s okay if you don’t remember everything.”
“And who’s that?” The tone in her voice changes as she points to my husband’s face.
“That’s Mark,” I say between sobs. “My husband, Mark. Remember the wedding? You said he wore the tackiest tuxedo you’ve ever seen. Remember that ugly white tuxedo, ma?” She shook her head no and put the picture down. I put it back in my purse. “Well, I’ve got to pick up John and Amy from school but I wanted to bring you new flowers.” I wiped the tears from my eyes with my fingers. “Maybe I’ll bring the kids this weekend.”
“Kids?” she says as if the entire past two minutes had never happened.
“Nevermind, ma.” I stood up and leaned over the table to kiss her on the forehead. “See ya’ soon.” Before leaving the room I clicked the lamp off again. I took one last look at her silhouette before leaving.
Back outside I raised my face to the sky and let the rain wash away my tears.
Brandon Jenkins holds a journalism degree from San Diego State University. He currently resides in Cedar Rapids, IA where he spends the cold winters writing stories and talking to his dogs.