30. The Errand

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Monday, April 1, 1918

Sarah squinted against the bright afternoon sun as she tied the brown-papered package to the back of a silver Kenwood bicycle with a long piece of twine. A whistling breeze blew at her face, ruffling the black curls that fell loose from her mechanic's cap.

It was an unusually warm day, but Sarah shivered as the cool wind swept over the thin layer of perspiration that misted the back of her neck. She watched a crumpled piece of paper somersaulting like a tumbleweed across the dusty lot past the front of Albert's house.

As if on cue, the front door banged open and Albert stepped out onto the porch. He raised a hand over his eyes to shield the sun. His other hand pressed against his left hip. Sarah knew her uncle's hip had been bothering him lately. She frowned as he shuffled into the yard and hobbled toward her, his face tensing from the strain.

"Uncle Albert!" Sarah said. "What are you doing out here? I thought you were resting up today."

Albert grunted. "I don't need to rest. I'm as healthy as I ever was."

Sarah shook her head. She knew it wouldn't do any good to argue with him.

"And where are you off to anyway?" His tone was sharp, nearly accusing.

"I'm delivering that side mirror to Mr. Opus. And picking up the Sunday paper like I do every week."

Albert's face contorted in confusion.

Sarah let out a sigh. "You forgot, didn't you? We just talked about this last night."

Albert waved a dismissive hand in Sarah's direction. "I – I didn't forget," he said, stammering. "I just want to make sure you get there okay. You even know where to find Mr. Opus?"

"Do I know where to find the newsstand? The one I frequent every week?"

Albert sent her a stern look. "Don't sass me, girl! I'm only looking out for you!"

Sarah bit her tongue before she spoke again. "Yes, I know where I'm going. I'll go there and come straight back. You won't have any reason to worry."

Albert nodded and the tension lines in his expression faded.

"Good!" he said as if he had just won an argument. "I don't want you zipping around cars like a maniac. And you be sure to look out for traffic."

"I'm always careful on my bicycle."

"And watch out for those manure carts too."

"Uncle Albert! Seriously?"

"I'm not kidding, Sarah. Those things are all over the place. They move like molasses, but they poop up out of nowhere." A huge grin creased Albert's face.

Sarah burst out laughing. She had heard that joke countless times since she was little, but it never wore on her. She was relieved Albert didn't say how he almost ran his Model T into a manure truck the other day. Especially since the last time he even drove a car was over two years ago. He was saying odd things like that almost every day. She pushed down the worry, her heart drumming against her ribs.

"I'll be fine." Sarah gave her uncle a kiss.

She hopped onto her bicycle and pedaled off, lifting a hand and waving. "Be back soon."

"Keep both hands on the bicycle!" Albert shouted.

Sarah lowered her hand and smiled, but the smile quickly gave way to a trembly sad-lipped expression. Just last week, she had thought seriously about leaving Uncle Albert. To make it on her own. Maybe as a mechanic. Or as a poet.

But now she knew she could never leave her uncle. Not with his mind slipping away to nothing.

Sarah pedaled furiously.

And the air whipped past her cheeks, lifting her tears to the wind.


Author's Note

I think it's fairly obvious that Albert has some form of dementia. I remember when I learned my mother, Gloria, had Alzheimer's, it was like a punch to the gut.

A diagnosis like this doesn't just affect the person. It affects the entire family in very profound ways. First, there's the guilt when you ask yourself what you could have done to detect it earlier. Second, there's the anger of trying to communicate with a loved one who can't remember to take their medicine or doesn't want to eat or just wants to shut their eyes to the rest of world. Third, there's the sadness of feeling helpless and wondering WHY.

If you're faced with this or a similar situation with an elderly parent, know that there is hope. And there's help out there. You don't have to do it alone.

Originally, I had no intent to make Alzheimer's part of any story line, and still don't. But I'm going to let this one play out on its own. Let's see where it takes us.

Have a great week!

Thanks!

Tom

P.S. In case you're wondering what the chapter picture is, it's an early 20th century manure cart.  ;)

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