Maria doesn't say the big D word to my face, but I hear her say it behind my back. Dementia. If I'm not possessed or deliberately being stubborn and stupid, then maybe I'm demented. Maybe I have Alzheimer's, the big A word, but mostly she thinks I am deliberately trying to sabotage her life. I try to conceal my disappointment. I tell anyone who will listen what a wonderful daughter she is.
I'm not allowed to answer the phone while they're at work. They've set the phone to go to the answering machine after two rings. They figure I won't be able to physically move fast enough to reach the phone but they've warned me not to ever answer the phone. So sometimes I sit next to the phone and wait for it to ring. It's often the only human conversation I have all day. I wonder what the consequences will be if they catch me. I think I know. It's the nursing home they've been whispering about late at night when they think I'm asleep. Or maybe they hope I'm listening and they'll scare me into better behavior. I'm a bad girl.
I have no money. They take my social security to cover the expenses I've incurred as a result of their generosity: a bed and three squares a day. Two daughters and a son and none of them want me. What if I had not wanted them when they were dependent on me? Should I have schemed to get rid of them?
I steal. A penny here, a dollar there and I keep it in a sock stuffed in a corner of the closet where my daughter never looks. Sometimes my cousin Lott sends me money. A year ago she gave me a large box of stationary. She had the stamps in the bottom of the box so I don't have to ask my daughter for them. Maria doesn't know that I write to my cousin so often. My cousin sends me cards with an insert for a photo. The money is always behind the photo. Lott thinks I'm saving to buy myself some new clothes or a trip to the beauty shop. I look in the mirror and laugh. I want to buy myself a ticket out of here.
Here's the thing. I'm trapped in this house day in and day out. I know my brain does not work so well. It clunks along like an old worn out vacuum cleaner, sucking up what dust it can and then losing it all to the garbage pail. I get confused. I live in a world that no longer exists and I can't exist in this one. I know I am ignorant of so much. It's my fault. I can no longer keep up. I wonder if I can dial a phone number properly. I want to call a cab. I want to go far away. I wonder where my daughter keeps my passport and how much a plane ticket to Greece will cost. I want to return to the village where I was born even though it has been so many years. My brain is exhausted.
* * *
I am so proud of myself, yet so scared. I found my passport. This morning before they left for work, they reminded me to eat my breakfast while it was still warm, (I'm not allowed to use the stove or microwave.) I smiled sweetly and told them both to have a wonderful day. My son-in-law rolled his eyes. He knows I hate oatmeal, which is why he always insists I eat it. I guess it never occurred to him that I know how to use the garbage disposal.
As soon as they were gone, I packed a suitcase. All week I had worked on my list of things to pack. In the end there was only room for half of it. I called a cab. I am now in the airport trying to find my way. You see, I managed to talk my cousin into buying a ticket for me. She sent me the itinerary and explained everything to me. I read her letter over and over. Lott wanted to know where I would stay once I reached my destination. I lied and told her I still had an old friend there. Lott must not know I have the big D. My heart is pounding. I should be afraid but I am only thinking whatever happens I will be free.