"Hey dad," I say as I sit down next to him. He's lying in a strange bed, in a strange room, with strange devices connected to him. "How are they treating you?"
My old man looks at me closely. "Who are you. Are you going to stick me with another damn needle?"
It hurts, but I was prepared for it. "No, it's me, Daniel. Your son." I reach out to take his wrinkled hand in mine.
His eyes light up. "Oh, Danny! You've grown! Look at you! How is whatshername, that girl? Michelle?"
"Dad, we broke up years ago. I'm married to Anne. We have kids now. Josh and Elizabeth."
The look of joy In my dad's eyes fades. "Oh. Oh, I'm sorry." His eyes move away as he tries to connect the missing pieces of memory.
"We're good, dad. How are you?"
"Oh, I'm alright. I've got to get the garage cleaned up before your mother gets home, or else she'll see the china cabinet. It's almost done, Danny. These people around here just won't let me leave!" His voice raises a little and the deep wrinkles in his face contort with anger.
"No dad, it's alright. I'll… I'll take care of it when I leave. You need to rest." I never wanted to lie to my dad, but what else could I do? The cabinet had been done for years.
"Oh, thank you Danny. So what…" I can see part of him fade from me. "Where am I?"
"You're at a hospice… hospital, dad. Are you comfortable? Feeling OK?"
"Hospital? What happened?"
I don't know what to say. "You've… you've got Alzheimer's."
He gives me a blank look. "Got his what?"
"No, dad. You're just forgetting things."
He waves his hand dismissively with a huff. "I've always been forgetful. It's nothing new." I smile, but have to wipe some tears from my eyes.
"That's right. I remember when you forgot mom's birthday. Boy was she angry."
Dad gives a chuckle. "Oh yes. I remember. Don't tell her, but I didn't really forget." His old eyes look around for an intruder, then he leans closer to me. "I was angry at her because… because she…"
"You never told us that."
"She… what? Well, why would I? You kids didn't need to know our adult stuff." He leaned back and smiled serenely, closing his eyes.
"Well, I won't tell her," I said.
He opened his eyes and stared at me. "Who are you? You aren't here to give me another damn shot, are you?"
I feel a pain in my heart as if I'd already lost him. And in truth, I had. He wasn't the strong, quick-witted salesman that I adored and admired as a kid. He wasn't the flawed-but-good-hearted man I learned to love as an adult. Those moments where he was himself were fleeting. But as he searches my face suspiciously, I don't see him, or even the ghost he had become. I see myself, and I'm frightened.
"I'm Daniel," I told him again.
"Oh, Danny. Where's your sister?"
"Joyce is at home, dad." She had refused to see him. Whenever I tried, she'd tell me that she wanted to remember dad the way he was, as if he had died the moment he was diagnosed. But as much as it hurt, I couldn't let dad sit in that strange room alone. Mom would've wanted me to be with him, I'm sure.
"I'd like to see her again. So, how's whatshername, Michelle?"
"…She's fine, dad."