At 10 o’clock each morning the black limousine drove through the white wrought iron gates leading to the ivy covered mansion. Dust rose through the air as it moved slowly up the mile-long gravel driveway, and pulled into one of only ten parking spaces in front. Lou Vindigni, the short, stocky, jut-jawed driver walked around to the passenger side rear door and opened it. Trent Martin stepped out of the back seat, looking older than his fifty-eight years. He slowly made his way up the stairs leading to the French doors. As soon as he entered the foyer, his demeanor changed as he greeted two young nurses in white, chatting behind a white marble desk.
“Good morning, ladies,” Trent said with a smile.
“Good morning, Mister Martin,” they replied in unison.
For the past eight months, Lou drove him from his home in San Francisco to visit his wife, Alexandra, at Casa de Madonna Convalescent Home, tucked away in the plush hills of Marin County. Daily, he wore a navy blue pin-striped suit, white starched shirt and a red tie to make the visits. At least one day a week he showed up with flowers and boxes of See’s candy for the staff.
Alexandra was propped up with pillows on her bed. Her private nurse, Kristin, knew to leave the room as soon as Trent arrived, ensuring privacy for the husband and wife. Alexandra’s room was decorated with pink and white rose-covered wall paper, white Irish lace curtains, and soft pink eyelet bedding. Although she looked paler than usual, the pink cashmere negligee she wore cast a soft blush on her cheeks. She stared at the curtains fluttering through the slightly opened window that summer morning. Trent hadn’t seen his wife looking so radiant for a long time. He kissed her lips and each cheek. He hugged her. Just for a moment, he thought she recognized him.
~ ~ ~
Trent pulled the recliner close to the head of her bed to situate himself for another day. He gave into the cloak of fatigue that hit him often without warning, drifting into a restless sleep while attempting to eradicate the bitterness threatening to choke the life right out of him. Alexandra’s enemy and thief was Alzheimer’s disease. She was only fifty-three years old.
She began experiencing minimal memory loss five years earlier, which became increasingly frustrating for her. She kept the lapses to herself for as long as she could. Alex had no idea that Trent and their sixteen year old daughter, Sophia, shared their concerns about her. They watched her closely while her confusion increased at an alarming rate. If any of their relatives had noticed, no one said a word until a neurologist diagnosed her.
Trent began taking care of Alex full time after she walked out of their house six months earlier. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He was working at his law firm downtown, while Lou Vindigni, their housekeeper, cook and limousine driver, was busy doing chores in the Victorian estate. After lunch, Lou told Alexandra that he was going to run errands, and she told him that she might take a walk around the neighborhood while he was gone. She didn’t care for working out at the club like most of her friends did, so she walked through their Pacific Heights neighborhood a few times a week to keep fit and clear her mind. It was 4:30 p.m. when Lou returned home. He was surprised to find Lou’s neighbor, Frances Flori, sitting by herself on the couch in the living room.
“Is there something wrong?” Lou asked as he rushed through the door carrying grocery bags.
“Oh, thank God you’re back. I didn’t know what to do,” she stuttered.
“What’s going on…what is wrong…where is Alex?”
“She’s fine now,” Frances whispered, shaking her head. “She’s upstairs in bed.”
Lou pulled up one of the arm chairs closer to Frances. “This isn’t an inquisition, but I’m losing patience here, what’s going on?”
“Give me a chance to collect my thoughts, Lou. It was 2 o’clock when I left to go to the club for a swim. As soon as I turned onto Sacramento Street, I saw Alex sitting on the curb and hugging her purse tight against her chest. At first I couldn’t believe it was her, she just didn’t look like herself … we’ve been best friends for twenty years. I swear on my father’s grave she didn’t know who I was. Can you imagine? We raised our children together.”
Frances broke down in tears. Lou handed her his handkerchief. All he wanted to do was run up the stairs to see how Alex was, but he had to hear the rest of the story.
“She studied my face and our surroundings, and it was clear she recognized neither. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when she finally remembered who I was, and asked why we were sitting on the curb. I told her we had been taking a walk, and that we decided to sit down for a rest. She believed me. I drove her home. Alex had left the front door wide open, which as you know, is not like her at all. When I got her home all she wanted to do is go to bed, so I took her upstairs and she climbed under the covers with her clothes on.
Lou moved to sit down on the couch next to Frances, putting his arm around her shoulder. “Thank you. What can I say, if you hadn’t picked her up who knows what could have happened?”
“I know she has been having a hard time remembering things, and hasn’t been able to play Bridge with our club for about a year now, but I didn’t realize she was getting so much worse.” Frances got up and headed toward the front door. “I had better get going, Frank will be getting home any minute. If I don’t have dinner on the table by 6 o’clock he turns into an ogre.”
Lou opened the door for her. “Give my love to Trent. I don’t know how he’s going to handle this,” she said, heading down the stairs.
“I know. And by the way, tell that husband of yours he’d better appreciate you. He doesn’t know how good he has it.”
“Oh, Lou, what will I do without her?” she said, wiping the tears from her cheeks.
Lou closed the door and went upstairs to peek in on Alexandra. She was sound asleep.