My father arrives for Christmas with Sylvia, the widow of his best friend from childhood. In the year they both lost spouses they moved in together. Blissed out on the amorous effects of simultaneous dementia, they assume they’ve always been together. They delight in a never-ending present of a past they never shared.
Masking. A need to feign competence cements their bond. Sylvia solves the problem of ordering food she cannot name by saying, I’ll have whatever Dusty’s having. Dad solves the problem of missing items by endorsing Sylvia’s theory – thieves. While they’re out and while they sleep, burglars run off with Glen Miller cd’s, dad’s chain saw, tubes of toothpaste. Their amusements are simple. At night, they sit in the dark with flashlights on. Cuddled on the living room couch they create safe.
I need my father to have Christmas dinner with us, just as he always has. Sylvia is welcome. We had to sneak the car away from them after Sylvia’s daughter complained about their long days driving lost in New England. So, my husband picks them up at noon on Christmas Eve and drives them to our house with overnight bags.
From the couch in my living room after lunch, my father spontaneously shares a revelation. It’s strange. . . but I don’t know where I live anymore.
He no longer recognizes my home, in the town he lived in for fifty years. You live in Springfield, now, with Sylvia I say.
Is that right? I can’t picture it, he says, calmly. Sylvia breathes softly beside him.