It was the red door I was afraid to knock on. I knew what awaited me on the other side. But wasn’t I the one who had decided to do this? So, I knocked and of course, the nurse opened. Tara had moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Initially, most of the evenings were spent in reminding her who I was. Later on, I caught on and stopped. She seemed not surprised that a girl came everyday around 6 and stayed till Stella, her daughter, came home around 10. Maybe her nurse whispered it in her ears before I arrived. I never asked. It was an awkward situation and I felt uncomfortable enough without prying. It was possible that she thought a new girl came every day and not the same one for the past six months.
Her face showed signs of her old age even if her glowing white hair didn’t give it away. The wrinkles reminded me of the grandmoms in old folk tales. I watched her memory grow steadily worse. Due to her condition, Stella had put out an ad for help. It was lousy pay. However, as a student, I could use the money. Unfortunately for me, I got attached to Tara. We would spend most evenings either watching TV or I would read children’s tales to her in animated voices. She enjoyed it. During the story, she would often call me Stella and give me advice about my life. She would eventually drift back but she wouldn’t remember who I was. I found those phases the most terrifying. Off late, those phases had increased. She seemed to be able to gauge her environment and in a flash, she lost all control. She would sometimes drift into a faraway land and mutter about people I didn’t know. I would nod, smile or be sad, depending on what was appropriate. I found it unnerving after all.
I approached Stella about it one day after we had put Tara to bed. Before, I could voice my concerns, she understood. She poured herself a glass of Rum and some soft drink to mix it with; she offered me the same. I took her up on the offer. We sat in the balcony in silence. I was afraid to tell her I couldn’t come back anymore. It hurt too much to watch a human being go through that. Stella said, “Sometimes, it is not easy to watch Ma this way. But I find overtime, the most I can do is be there for her.” She paused for a while as she emptied her drink. “But it is rather a good way to go, don’t you think? With no regrets.”
I finished my drink before I left that night. We hugged it out. I never went back to see that red door. I couldn’t help but think, no regrets was nice way to end this life. But a clean slate meant wiping away of all the good memories. Because, when this life ends for me, I would at least die with the knowledge that I had led a good life. What would Tara have?