By Jon Lucas
“I need to run an errand and would like you to come along with me, okay?” I asked.
“Okay. Where are we going?”
“I just need to drop some papers off someplace.” Not a total lie.
So I helped her into the car in which I had already preloaded her clothes and supplies in the trunk and drove her to Cedar Creek 15 minutes away from our house.
As I pulled into the parking lot she said, “Where are we? Is there something wrong with me?” I have no idea where that came from. There is not much in the parking lot to suggest what the place is and their signage is almost unnoticeable. She might have seen it.
“No, I just need to drop off some papers here. Come on in with me.”
I grabbed a folder of papers from the backseat and escorted her through the front gate into a lovely courtyard filled with flowering plant and shade trees. Then I took her through the entrance door to the building’s lobby at 10AM, our scheduled arrival time.
They were ready for her. Several cheery staff members greeted her by name with big smiles on their faces. One of them took her by the hand and started to lead her off to their activity room. Sharon turned around to look at me for some reassurance.
“It’s okay. Go with them and I will join you in a few minutes,” I lied. I watched the staff lead her down the hallway to the activity room. When I was younger I had to take my dog in to have it euthanized. Back then, you didn’t go in with your dog to comfort it while it was being put down. You just handed it over to the vet and they led it down a hallway with its tail wagging. I never forgot that awful feeling of sending an innocent happy animal off to die. This felt oddly similar and the scene still haunts me.
Once she was out of sight, I went back out to the car to get her belongings. I spent the next hour behind a closed door, signing papers to place my wife, my high school sweetheart and my soul mate in a dementia care facility where most of the other residents were 20 to 30 years older than her. Then it was time for me to leave. As I walked out I glanced back down the hall and saw her engaged in some exercise activity which involved waving a pool noodle around in the air.
I walked out the front gate to the parking lot. As the gate swung shut a wave of emotion came over me like I had never experienced in my life! So many emotions hit me all at once with a tremendous intensity: sadness, guilt, joy, grief and a sense of FREEDOM. All of a sudden, all that weight that I had unknowingly been carrying around with me for the last 3 years was lifted. I felt lighter than air. Then it hit me: I was alone. Absolutely and completely alone. I was alone, but I was also free to do whatever I wanted for the first time in 3 years.