Lyda Wants to Weep
by David Lambert
Lyda stands crumpled in a wrinkled sleeveless shirt. She faces the sliding glass that opens to her downstairs porch, the brown yard, and beyond, the sand dunes which hold off the great Atlantic Ocean. The morning light softens her edges, gives her an aura, and specklings of silver dust dart around her in the light.
Lyda’s body is leaden with age and her hair shapes a wiry garland. Both hands lay quiet by her side and she makes no large movement. She is still except that her shoulders buck slightly, almost imperceptibly, and she is silent.
He watches her for a moment in the angled light and then he understands that she is crying—not a hammering sob from some new and hard-edged grief, but a tiny quiet crying that comes from deep down, a small leak that has sprung from the soul.
Lyda’s sorrow is quiet but it carries its own gravity; it is a force that tugs at her face and rounds her shoulders and her sorrow carries the weight of false years.
She weeps softly this morning because, in this brief moment, in the klieg of this harsh and streaky sun, Lyda has a rare moment of acuity, a clarity of mind which normally alludes her. And during this moment when her mind mists are gone, she remembers that she cannot remember. This awareness makes her sad and she is scared of what she will become.
But the tears today are mostly not for her; today she cries because she will not remember that a very sweet and good friend has just died suddenly and at a relatively young age and Lyda went to her funeral yesterday. She remembers the funeral just now, the sadness of the surprise and the sorrow, but soon she will forget.
Lyda wants to grieve for her friend, wants to hurt for her husband and their two daughters, wants to comfort them with her tears, but the mist will return and she will not, and she knows that she will not, and that hurts her more that any broken body. And because she wants to remember, and because she knows that she will forget, she stands there in the yellow light while the quiet tears of her compound sadness form darkening circles on the front of her shirt.
He can see this in her reflection in the big glass door and he knows she wants to be held, needs to feel loved, needs her own comfort in this hard moment. He can see this—and he can sense this, and yet for some small time he resists.
These days he cannot align his emotions with hers. For decades their minds would track similar shapes on all things, a near psychic exchange of the other’s emotional landscape. Recently they have fallen out of sync. He knows it is the dementia, still he is disarmed.
Now he steps into her light and wraps his arms around her, remembers this frame in firm flesh and full bloom. He enfolds her, tries to shush her soft sobs, and he murmurs the words that have become his mantra these past 18 months:
“It’s alright sweetie,” he says. “It’s o.k.”
But it is not o.k. Lyda’s face, creased as it is by time, is not a face for weeping and sadness trowels on extra years.
Today she stands here and lets him hold her and he can feel the rhythms of her soft sadness and the trickle of her tears as they find a path through the hairs on his arm.
He knows that there is nothing he can do to stop these things, her memory loss, her having grown old, or the unspoken—her dying; time will have its way. He can do only this, hold her and comfort her—and tell her these same familiar lies.
And that has become his great weight, and that has become his own great sorrow.
©2010 David Lambert
(Author’s Note: My mother struggles daily in the grasp of dementia. The disease has subdued her personality and stripped her dignity. Her diminishings are painful to see. This story is fiction, although it has been culled from personal experience. The man could have been my dad, had he lived into his sixth decade; the woman could be my mother, or anyone who endures the slow sliding away of one’s memory and one’s mind.)