I shower and dress and gulp down a quick cup of “wake-me-up” tea quietly so I don’t wake up my sleeping guy. I even tiptoe while hunting for my shoes and lugging my suitcase to the trunk of the car.
My mom is anxiously awaiting me. At 92 and diagnosed with dementia, days and hours and weeks all merge into one long wait for her. I want to get there as soon as possible for the weekend visit.
I walk to the hallway table, the one whose drawer holds all the keys to our life: cars, house, mailbox, and a few that are “mystery keys” (as in, what the heck does this key open?).
I reach for my car keys and stop in horror.
They are not there.
My keys are always in that drawer when I’m home.
My mom has dementia and I CAN’T FIND MY CAR KEYS.
My mom has dementia and will be pacing the hallways by 9 a.m., even though I told her I won’t be there until after lunch.
I need to leave, NOW, but I can’t find my keys.
I race over to the kitchen to see if for some ungodly reason I left them on the counter.
I run into the hall closet and check the pockets of the coat I wore the night before.
I retrace my steps. Always, always, when I arrive home, I get out of the car, go through the inside garage door to the hallway, march straight to the “key table,” open the drawer, and place my keys inside, rather romantically, next to my guy’s keys. They lie together contentedly, waiting for the next trip out.
Didn’t I do that last night?
I rack my brain for anything that would have changed my routine. I come up blank.
I have to leave NOW. My mom has dementia. She won’t understand why I’m late.
Then I realize it must be my guy’s fault, right? I mean, one time before, months ago, he used my keys to go on a quick errand and mistakenly kept them in his coat pocket when he returned.
So, that must be what happened now. I get off my tippy toes and stomp into the bedroom, waking up the sound-asleep man and demanding (nicely…kind of): “Do you have my keys?”
He denies the deed immediately, of course. But he also stumbles out of bed to help me search.
First, I trudge back to the key drawer. Maybe it’s hidden way in the back.
No, still not there.
We check my office desk and his office desk.
The bathroom counter and the top of our dressers.
My usual yogic-breathing sounds more like I’m in labor.
WHERE ARE MY CAR KEYS?
Psychologically, of course, I’m not looking forward to this long drive through Massachusetts and Connecticut and New York and New Jersey. Psychologically, did I throw the keys away?
But it’s my mom who has dementia.
As my guy begins to pick through the trash, I decide to return to the car, sit behind the steering wheel, and retrace all of my steps the night before.
As I sit in my car seat, taking in long slow gulps of air, I notice a glint of silver.
In the ignition.
Where they’d been sitting, all night long.
I’ve found my keys.
And my mom’s the one with dementia.
Just waiting to remember what she’s waiting for.