"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison



The cries of those around me
Sound far away and foggy
The capsules they give me
Make me feel lethargic and groggy
I am not myself, and I have no recollection why
The voices in my head scream to me,
“Someone has left me here to die.”

Rooms upon rooms, all look the same
I am confused, which is labeled with my name?
I wheel from room to room, searching for familiarity,
While deep inside, I am actually looking for clarity.
Where am I? How did I get here? 
Who is that when I look in the mirror?

I gaze at fine lines, wrinkles, and bags,
Who is that old, tired hag?
I am confused, and turn away,
I cannot turn 90 in only one day.
This is a painting. That is not me. 
Last time I knew, I was only 23.

An old memory fires, for forgetting, I am ashamed.
I am missing something, a young dark-haired dame,
She has her whole life ahead of her, being only three,
Everyone in my family says that she looks like me.
Where is she now? She can’t be alone! She needs me!
I’ve forgotten to pick her up from preschool! Where is she?

I cry out, expressing my frustration,
But no words come out, just a malfunction.
A stranger calls out, “She’s having a behavior.”
I look about, trying to find a savior.
This place is so big, where do I go?
How do I tell someone that I simply don’t know?

My cries become louder; I writhe in my psychosis,
Somewhere nearby, I hear talk of diagnosis. 
A woman’s annoyed voice, “Give her drugs, it will calm her down.”
“Her PRN is Ativan, she won’t make a sound.”
She walks toward me, small, clear cup in hand,
She gives me the single pill, white and bland.

I forget what to do, so I just sit there,
She puts her hand on my shoulder, and pets my hair.
What have I done? What do I do?
Why is she staring at me? I tell her to ‘shoo.’
 “This will calm you down, go ahead and take it.”
I swallow the pills, and fight the urge to spit.

The once-locked doors creak open, revealing light,
One young woman enters my sight. 
She looks to be her 30’s, beautiful and glowing,
Her radiance jolts something inside of me, my heart is showing.
She is a stranger to me, but I feel something blossoming. 
I smile and say, “Hello,” but gibberish comes out. 
She understanding, and tells me what her life was about.

I listen calmly, nodding in agreement,
feeling as my vocabulary is lost in wet cement. 
Her story is similar to mine, and I am sentimental,
A light flicks on in my brain, ever so gentle.
I remember where my room is, and dig for a picture
I find the old photograph, and hand it to her. 

She stares at it, tears rolling down her face.
She bends to her knees, and grabs my hand with grace.
“I knew it would happen, you’ve come back to me.”
“I knew you’d do it, I couldn’t let it be.”
“They told me to give you time, not to smother.”
“It’s been a long time since you’ve known you’re my mother.”

Jessica Burkman has dedicated her life to working with those living with dementia. She works as Memory Care Support Services over the dementia ward in a small town in Indiana, and her residents are her family. Dementia kills more seniors every year than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, however, dementia is not common knowledge nor well-understood. Her dream is to change this. Instagram: @Jess_does_drugs

Cover photo by Robert Wiedemann on Unsplash

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