Losing Dad to Alzheimer’s
is like having my heart cut out with a butter knife.
The hurt is dull, slow, and constant.
Sometimes, the knife hits a nerve;
the pain becomes a raging flood
pouring into an abyss.

Like the time Mom and I visit and
there is a handbag on the chair in Dad’s room—
one that doesn’t belong to my mother.
I look at the bag, and then at her,
worrying about how she’s feeling.
I know it probably belongs to the lady
in the room next door
who kissed Dad on the mouth in front of my mother,
and me,
and my kids.
That day, my daughter was furious
about the transgression.
“How dare she! Grandpa is married to Grandma!”
she fumed, with a teenager’s certainty of right and wrong.
I had to explain that sometimes this happens
when you live perpetually in the now
because the disease has robbed your past
and your future.

But today, the kids aren’t with us;
it’s just Dad, Mom, and me.
I see my mother notices the bag, too,
and we exchange a glance that tells each other everything.
Then Dad sees our faces—really sees them.
He looks from the bag on the chair,
to me, then to my mother, and he has a rare moment of clarity.
His eyes fill with tears, and he says to Mom and me, “You’re my family.”
He can’t stop crying because he’s just realized
that he’s cheated on Mom.
He’s cheated on us, on our family,
and even though he won’t remember it a few hours from now,
in this moment, he does.

And you understand why they call it heartbreak,
because in this room,
at this moment,
everyone’s heart is fracturing into a thousand pieces.
But only two of you
will remember it