Frank is sitting in a blue sofa chair in a small room. A door in front of him is open and every now and then someone walks past it. An unmade, twin bed sits along the wall to the right of the door and for some reason the flowers on the comforter relaxes him. He doesn’t know where he is and he’s tense, but those pink and blue flowers offer comfort. He decides he likes them.
As Frank is transfixed on the meaning of that floral comforter, a young woman walks in. He looks up at her. She’s wearing white, baggy clothes; her hair is pulled back in a messy bun. The only makeup she has on is red lipstick.
“How’re you doing, Frank?” she says to him. Her smile is lovely, he thinks, but he doesn’t know who she is. He feels like he should know.
“You look like my Ruth,” he says.
“Do I now?” Frank watches her walk toward the bed with the floral comforter and begin to make it.
“Yes, you do. My Ruth always liked to wear red lipstick like yours.” Frank smiles at the image of Ruth, but then he grows concerned. “Do you know where she is? I don’t believe I’ve seen her in a while now,” he says worriedly.
The woman sits on the bed she just made and smiles gently at him. “Don’t worry, Frank. I believe she told me that she’s going to visit you today.”
Frank relaxes in his sofa chair and smile once more. “You know, Ruth always made the best pecan pies. Every time she made one for our guests they’d always ask her for the recipe.” He pauses and chuckles quietly. “But Ruth always insisted that it was a valuable family recipe and refused to tell anyone.” He leans forward towards the lady who looks like Ruth and says quietly, “But the real secret was that she pulled the recipe from a common Betty Crocker cookbook.” The lady’s eyes widen and her red-lipped smile spreads across her smooth face.
“No,” she says quietly and brings her hand to cover her mouth.
“Mhmm,” he says. “Ruth insisted she’d be embarrassed if anyone knew all of her home cooked meals came from a simple cookbook. She wanted everyone to believe she was a fantastic cook who created the recipes all on her own.” Frank laughs in fondness over the memory, but then he grows concerned. “Do you know where she is? I haven’t seen her in a while and I’m a little worried.”
“Ruth is just fine, Frank. You don’t need to worry. Breakfast is ready. Are you hungry?” The woman stands up, walks toward Frank, and offers him her hand. He looks up at her and sees she has a name tag. Becca, it says. He grabs her hand and stands up with great effort. His knees hurt, but Becca holds onto him and he’s grateful for the support.
“Will Ruth join us for breakfast?” he asks.
“Ruth will come visit you soon, don’t worry,” Becca replies. She leads Frank out the door and into a white hallway. He thinks it’s unpleasant. The walls are white, the floors are white, and even Becca’s clothes are white. Ruth would never stand for so much lack of color, he thinks.
The two of them walk into a cafeteria where several others are eating. Frank walks to the cafeteria line and selects bacon and eggs with hash browns for breakfast. He sits down at a table and eats and he thinks of Ruth. He misses Ruth. Why hasn’t he seen her in a while? The breakfast is terrible, he thinks; Ruth was a much better cook. With each bite Frank grows more and more apprehensive. I need to go home, he thinks. He needs to see Ruth and tell her he loves her.
Frank abandons his half-eaten breakfast and walks towards the lobby of the building. He sees young and old sitting around talking. “Me and Jon are doing well, Mom. He recently got a promotion which will be nice since Amber’s diapers and formula are expensive,” Frank hears someone say, but he pays little attention to them. He walks out the doors of this foreign building and glances around at his surroundings.
He spots a bus stop just a couple of feet away from him. He walks toward it and sits down. He doesn’t know where the bus will take him when it gets here, but he’ll just ask the bus driver the closest stop to home.
Home. Where Ruthie is.
Frank is sitting in a blue sofa chair in a small room. A door in front of him is open and every now and then someone walks past it. He sees a brown dresser against the wall to the left of him. A simple, artistic design is engraved on the top drawer and for some reason those swirls relax him. He doesn’t know where he is and he’s tense, but those black swirls offer comfort. He decides he likes them.
As Frank is transfixed on the meaning of those swirls on that dresser, a young woman walks in.
“Good afternoon, Frank,” she says cheerfully. She looks like Ruth, he thinks, but before he can tell her that, she says, “You have a visitor.” In walks Frank’s son, Paul, and the woman who looks like Ruth walks out.
“Paul,” Frank says excitedly, “have you been good lately?”
“Hey, Dad,” Paul says and sits on the bed.
“How’s the eighth grade going? Making good grades?” Frank leans forward and quietly asks, “Meet any pretty ladies?” Frank gives his son a sly wink.
Paul sighs, “Dad, I’m not in school anymore. You know that.”
Frank stares at his son worriedly. “What do you mean you’re not in school? Education is very important. A young boy needs his education,” he lectures Paul.
“Dad, I graduated college eight years ago.” Paul pulls out his phone and shows Frank a picture of him in his graduation robes. “See. I’m not thirteen. I’m thirty.”
Frank sits back in his blue sofa chair. He is uncomfortable. Where did the time go? Yesterday, Paul was thirteen, a nervous teenager who wanted nothing more than to become an astronaut. When did he become thirty? He stares at the child in front of him and then glances at a framed picture of Paul with his mother, Ruth.
Frank looks back at his son. “I hope you’ve been treating your mother nicely. She does so much for you and your siblings.”
“What’s wrong?” Frank asks.
“Mom died, Dad! Why can’t you remember that?” Paul snaps his head back up and stares intensely at Frank. Dead. Ruth is dead. “She died four years ago. Cancer. You went to her funeral where we told stories about her and we cried and it was very sad. You placed calla lilies on her casket because she loved calla lilies. Any of this ringing a bell?”
Frank tenses up in his chair and digs his fingernails into the blue sofa chair. He stares up at the ceiling and tears well up in his eyes. “Oh Ruthie,” you cry out. “Ruthie, Ruthie, Ruthie.” Frank’s wife is dead. He can’t believe it. Yesterday, he was sitting at home and she was baking a pecan pie and she was smiling at him and he told her he loved her. He sobs loudly.
“Dad,” Paul says softly, but Frank ignores him and continues to cry. “Dad, hey, I’m sorry.” Paul gets up from the bed and hugs his father in his blue sofa chair. “It’s going to be okay.”
Franks lies his head against Paul’s chest and says, “I’m so sorry, Paul.” Frank gasps between sobs. “Your mother is dead. I know how much you loved her.” Paul rubs Frank’s back. “She always loved you and your sisters so much, but she’s gone now.” He cries against Paul’s chest for a few more seconds and says, “Paul.” But Paul doesn’t respond. “Paul,” Frank tries again, but louder.
“It’s going to be okay, son. We’ll get through this together. When’s her funeral?”
Paul sighs and lets go of Frank. He stares into his eyes. He has Ruth’s eyes. “Dad,” he starts carefully, “Mom’s funeral was four years ago. We already buried her.”
Frank’s chest feels like it’s going to burst. Already buried? “Oh, Ruthie,” Frank cries out, “I didn’t even get to say goodbye.” Frank’s cries become so loud and strong that his lungs hurt with every sob. He shakes uncontrollably in his blue sofa chair.
Paul backs away from him and a young woman walks in.
“I’m sorry, he’s really upset,” Paul says to her.
“It’s okay. I’ll calm him down, but maybe it’s best you leave,” she says politely.
Paul looks at Frank and Frank stares at him through the tears. “I’ll see you later, Dad.” Paul walks out the door, his head hanging low.
Frank looks up at the young woman and sees a nametag. It says Becca.
“Becca,” he cries, “My wife is dead.”
“Oh, Frank,” she sighs and kneels down beside him. “Why don’t you tell me about her? I love your stories about Ruth.”
Frank sniffles and he knows exactly which story to tell her. “Ruth,” his voice cracks a bit, “Ruth was so scared on our wedding day that she was going to trip as she walked down the aisle. Our church had stairs to the left that led to the aisle between the pews and she talked so often about how she didn’t want to fall down them in her heels and wedding dress. She didn’t worry too much about catering or organizing the guest list; but those stairs gave her nightmares.” The tears are gone and he laughs. “I tried comforting her about it, but it didn’t help. I swear she must’ve practiced the descent down those stairs a hundred times.” He smiles to himself and rocks in his blue sofa chair.
“Did she fall?” Becca asks him, her eyes glittering.
“Nope. She was beautiful walking down those steps and didn’t stumble once.”
Becca smiles at Frank and says, “I’m sure your wedding was lovely.”
“Do you know where Ruth is? I miss her terribly.”
Becca stands up and pats his wrinkly hand. “I think you’ll see her soon.”
“I sure hope so.”
“Would you like some crackers or water, Frank?”
“No, I’m fine, thank you.”
“Okay, well let me know if you need anything.”
Becca leaves the room and Frank reminisces about Ruth. He thinks about the way her soft hair was always pulled up. He thinks about how he always wondered how girls do that with their hair. Women were so complicated. Men were simple. That’s why he kept his hair short. Easy to maintain. He thinks about her red, decadent lips. He loves the way they look on her when she smiles. He misses Ruth.
He wonders where he is and decides he needs to go home to Ruth. He hasn’t told her he loves her in a while.
Frank gets out of his blue sofa chair with great effort and walks towards the lobby of the building. He sees young and old sitting around talking. “Do you play a lot of bingo and checkers, Dad? I hope they keep you busy,” Frank hears someone say, but he pays little attention to them. He can only think about getting home to Ruth. He walks outside and spots a bus stop a couple of feet away from him. He walks toward it and sits down on the bench. He doesn’t know where the bus will take him, but he’ll just ask the bus driver the closest stop to home.
Home. Where Ruthie is.
Frank is sitting in a blue sofa chair in a small room. A door in front of him is open and every now and then someone walks past it. He sees a lamp with flowers on the lampshade and for some reason those pink and blue flowers relax him. He’s tense and he doesn’t know where he is, but those flowers offer comfort. He decides he likes them.
As Frank is transfixed on the meaning of those flowers, a young woman then enters the room.
“Good afternoon, Frank. How’re you doing?” she asks him.
“You look familiar,” he says. “Do I know you?” He looks at her name tag on her white, baggy clothes and sees that it says, Becca.
“You’ve known me for a while, so, yes,” she replies. She smiles and says, “I’d like to think we’re friends.”
“You look like my Ruthie. Do you know that?”
“We’re about to play Bingo in the cafeteria, Frank. Would you like to play?”
Bingo. Frank likes bingo. “I would like to play Bingo.” He tries to stand up out of his chair, but his knees hurt. Becca comes over and lets him lean on her for support. He appreciates it.
Becca leads him out of the room and as he walks down the white halls toward the cafeteria, he sees a flyer taped to the wall. Important Information About Alzheimer’s, it reads. He doesn’t think too hard about it.
Becca grabs a bingo card and chips and the two of them sit down at one of the tables. Frank has a hard time reading the bingo card and hearing the person up front calling out the numbers, but it’s okay because Becca helps him. She reminds him of Ruth. She is very nice and very pretty just like Ruth is. When he gets bingo she looks at him excitedly and it makes him happy. He doesn’t win anything, but he still enjoys spending time with Becca and watching her delicate hands place chips on his bingo card. He likes her.
But after several games, Frank can’t rid the feeling of needing to be with Ruth. He misses her terribly and he hasn’t told her he loves her in a while. He looks worriedly at Becca.
“I’m sorry, but I think it’s time for me to leave,” he tells her. “My wife is probably at home with dinner in the oven and waiting for me to come home. She hates it when I’m late.” He tries to stand up and Becca allows him to use her for support again. “Thank you for being so kind to me.”
“You are a wonderful man, Frank,” she tells him. “I don’t know why anyone would be mean to you.”
“I’m going home now.”
He walks down the hall and towards the lobby. He sees young and old sitting around talking. “I understand that the bus stop is meant to ease the patients’ minds, but don’t you think it’s a little cruel tricking them with a fake bus stop?” he hears someone say, but he pays little attention to them. He walks outside and spots a bus stop several feet away from him. He walks toward it and sits on the bench. He doesn’t know where the bus will take him, but he’ll just ask the bus driver the closest stop to home.
Home. Where Ruthie is.
Frank is sitting on a hard bench outside. The sun is bright and warm, which is comforting, but he’s unsure of where he is. A young woman appears and sits on the bench with him.
“How’re you doing, Frank?” she asks him politely.
“I’m doing well Miss, except, well, I don’t seem to know where I am,” he tells her.
“Well then why don’t you come with me? Dinner is about ready. We’re having chicken today. I know you like chicken.”
“I apologize, Miss. It seems as if we’re friends, but, well, now I’m embarrassed—I don’t know who you are.”
She smiles at him. “That’s all right, Frank. My name is Becca.”
Becca. It sounds faintly familiar. “You know what? I think I do know you. I remember you being a nice lady.”
She pats his hand and says, “C’mon, Frank. Let’s get dinner before it gets cold.”
She helps him stand up and he says, “Thank you, Becca. I’m terribly hungry.”
She leads him inside the building a few feet away. He eats his chicken and ends his day with pulling out his pajamas from the dresser with an artistic design on the top drawer, climbing into the twin bed with the floral comforter, and turning off the lamp with the flowers on the lampshade next to the bed. He doesn’t know why, but these things are comforting to him. They remind him of a distant memory—one that seems to escape more often than he’d like.