“Helen, I brought someone to meet you.” There was no answer. Brian touched his wife’s arm. She jerked away.
“Stop it! Don’t touch me!”
“I’m sorry, Helen. I brought a friend, she’s right here…..”
“Daisy? Daisy, is that you?” Helen peered at Daisy, her face seeming to illuminate from the recognition. “I know you. You’re Daisy.”
Brian shrugged and shook his head in disbelief. How was it possible that his wife knew Daisy? How was it possible that she knew who anyone was if she didn’t know who he was? He collapsed in the nearest chair and put his face in his hands.
“Yes, Helen. It’s me, Daisy. I’m so glad to see you.” They held hands right away. They’d held hands sixty years before when they were high school cheerleaders together. Helen was the third girl on the human pyramid, Daisy catapulted to the top where two other girls held her by one foot. They wore sweaters with big, stitched S’s on the front and pleated skirts, sneakers with knee socks. Yes, she remembered Helen. They cheered together.
“I don’t know who he is. Can you make him go away?” Helen nodded toward Brian, a small nod so Brian wouldn’t notice but he did. He looked at Daisy and shook his head. Seeing an attendant standing near the window, Daisy walked over to ask her, “Is it true that Helen doesn’t recognize Brian? That she wants him to go away?”
“Yes. Every time. It’s terrible. And so sad. He comes every day to see her.”
“But why does she remember me from sixty years ago? That doesn’t make sense.” Daisy entertained the thought that none of this made sense.
“That’s what dementia is like. Unpredictable, selective, quirky. Helen can’t remember her own name but she remembers you. That’s just the way it is.” The attendant gave Daisy a quick hug and moved to help a patient struggling to right himself in his chair.
Kneeling down in front of Helen and holding both of her hands, quieting the working of her index finger around her thumb, Daisy said, “If that’s what you want, Helen, yes, I can make him go away.” It was wrong in some ways, to swoop in and promise to take a woman’s husband away but it seemed so cruel for Brian to keep showing up where he wasn’t wanted, to expect him to come back time after time to have his wife shove his hand away and beg people to make him leave. It seemed crueler still for Daisy to judge Brian for his wanting something more for himself.
“Helen, I’ll come back another time to see you. Brian, let’s go.” Helen went back to worrying her thumb with her index finger while Daisy put her hand on Brian’s shoulder. He jumped at the touch and then relaxed into it. Sighing. His whole body sighed. “Come on, Brian. It’s time.”
The symphony played Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor that Friday night. Brian and Daisy sat in Row K in the two seats next to the aisle, Brian and Helen’s season tickets for twenty-five years. “This was Helen’s favorite piece of music,” Brian whispered. Daisy nodded and covered his hand with her own.