One bar is enough to make phone calls if you’re okay with the sound cutting in and out, but it makes any internet capabilities virtually useless.
I try to refresh my email inbox as a test … my point proven in under two minutes when the app times out before it has a chance to load.
I’ll have to try and sneak away to town in the next day and use the computers at the library.
I’m sure a quick online search will tell me exactly where she is …
Placing my phone aside, I close my eyes once more and listen to the crash of the ocean outside my windows.
It doesn’t sound the same without her here.
And it sure as hell doesn’t feel the same.
I close my eyes and try to get some rest.
I’ll look for Lila forever if I have to.
I’ll start first thing tomorrow, and I won’t stop until I find her.
PART TWO [present)
“Junebug!” My grandfather’s eyes light when I walk into his room at the Willow Creek Care Center the Thursday before Mother’s Day.
Exhaling, I take the seat beside him and softly shake my head. “No, Grandpa. It’s me: Lila. Grandma Junie isn’t here.”
I decide not to explain to him, for the dozenth time, that Grandma passed away last year. It’s been a hell of a day and I don’t think I can bear to watch him reduced to tears like the first time all over again.
“Lila?” His wrinkled face is washed in confusion. It always depends on the day, but sometimes he remembers he has a granddaughter. Other times he doesn’t. Every once in a while, he mistakes me for my late mother, but that hasn’t happened in weeks. “Oh. Yes. Lila.”
He places his hand on mine, but his moment of clarity is gone in a flash.
His Alzheimer’s is progressing and the meds aren’t helping as much as they did in the beginning. Sometimes he gets combative with the staff. Lately he’s refusing to eat, as evidenced by the way his clothes hang from his once strapping and broad-shouldered physique.
The TV in the corner plays some black-and-white Western on mute and his eyes focus on the screen for a bit.
“Are you hungry?” I ask. One of his nurses stopped me on the way in, asking if I could coax him to eat. He skipped breakfast this morning and only ate a few bites of his lunch, and he can’t take his meds on an empty stomach. “Grandpa?”
He reaches for the remote control beside him, staring at the buttons in silence, as if he can’t quite recall which one he needs to push—or perhaps he’s forgotten why he grabbed it in the first place.
“Grandpa, you need to have some dinner,” I say. “Grandpa …”
He ignores me, and I rise from my chair, heading out to the hall to find a nurse. I ask her to have his dinner delivered to the room. I’ll stay here as long as it takes to get him to eat. His mind might be wasting away, but I refuse to let him die of physical starvation.
I return to his room—a private double suite at the end of the hall, one with every amenity Willow Creek has to offer and not one but two picture windows with a view of a small courtyard with a koi pond, flower garden, and a walking path.
Sometimes I catch him staring out the window with this wistful look in his eyes, smiling. Waving. And when I follow his gaze there’s nothing, no one.
I imagine he thinks he’s seeing Grandma.
Or maybe he does see her … in his own special way.
I can only imagine the reunion those two are going to have on the other side. And my mother, too. I’m sure he can’t wait to see his daughter for the first time in almost ten years.
One of these days I’m going to have to let him go.
And probably sooner than later.
“Knock, knock,” a voice calls from the doorway. An orderly in pink scrubs brings a food tray in and places it in his kitchenette.
“Thank you,” I say, hopping up and situating his meal at his little table for two by the window. “Grandpa, come eat. It’s your favorite. Beef and noodles. And orange Jell-O.”
None of those things were his favorites, but I don’t think he remembers, nor does he care at this point.
To my surprise, he pushes himself up and uses his walker to push his way across the room to the table, having a seat in the chair I’ve pulled out for him. He eyes the plastic tray filled with hospital-grade food and smacks his lips a couple of times before reaching for a spoon.
I take the spot across from him, hand resting beneath my chin, and watch him the way I always do, wishing I could have asked him more questions when I had the chance, wondering what goes on in that once-brilliant mind of his during his bouts of mental lucidity that always tend to happen when I’m not here.