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Telling the children

We call the children to come for lunch on Sunday. The oldest tried to make an excuse about some previous engagement. I think the tone of my voice sent shivers down his spine – well if not it did down my spine. “Yes yes Mom, we will be there! What is wrong?” I tell him to just come. I have no desire to do my usual Sunday spread. Every single task feels like climbing a mountain. I eventually get my act together with a roast chicken, my famous frikadelle and even more famous roast potatoes. The atmosphere is tense when the kids all arrive together. I took about half the bottle of rescue remedy to help me not disintegrate when I see them.

It is clear that they have suspected that something is wrong. I am not clear on how I feel about the fact that they never asked. Would I have said anything? I doubt it. Denial is a powerful thing. I carve the chicken deliberatly slowly to control my emotions. Bill used to always do this so well. Now he has no idea how to do it. Before I can even think of trying to break the news softly to them, Bill blurts out with brutal clarity “this week I was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia. I am fucked!” Bill, my dear dear husband whom I don’t think I ever heard using the f-word. The children literally gasp for breath, I cut right through the chicken’s breast bone and spine, lodging the carving knife into the wooden cutting board. The silence aroung the table is deafening. Bill takes this as his cue: “I do not want sympathy. Your mother and I will cope. And when the time comes I will pop myself off”. I sat down in my chair with such force that I could feel two of the riempies snap. These were my grandmother’s chairs – they have withstood a lifetime of heavy bottomed me. The dogs run for shelter. 

“Jesus Bill, what are you saying?” Bill has been so quiet after the diagnosis, I wondered if he actually comprehended what it meant. We spoke with few words, gently gliding past each other going about our business as the days passed. I had no idea what was going through his head, assuming that the dementia had already erased most of it. I was wrong. I was devasted. The children all started talking at the same time. Babel at the table. Tears, shouting, soft whimpering. I put my hands up which always they knew as a sign that they must all shut up. 

“Let us pray” Bill said. “For what alwe are about to receive dear Lord, make us trule grateful”. The irony is not lost on me. What are we about to receive?

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