Even before the dementia, aunt Denise was not fun to be around. I was her least favorite nephew(for multiple reasons) yet somehow the job of overseeing her care fell to me. Good. Great. Not like I didn’t have other things to see to.
Give my family some credit, they did try to chip in as much as they could. She never had kids, and her only husband had died in 1968, so it was pretty much me or nothing.
I remember her house as the “touch-me-not” museum from when I was a kid. Endless shelves of those cheap little knicknacks you find at thrifts stores, not a single bare surface to set something. And if you so much as looked at something the wrong way, she’d fly at you screeching like a harpy. Fun.
In her mind, I guess, the house is still like it was, full of neatly ordered rows of figurines and samplers and other tchotchkes. But I can tell you what it was really like. Heaps of old junk she’d find sifting through neighbor’s trash. She’d even collect bits of broken glass like they were gems. To cap it all off, she kept sneaking in dead animals and placing them like they were stuffed toys. Oh boy, did she throw a fit when found her ‘pet’ mouse.
If I don’t seem very fond of the old bat, the feeling was very much mutual. I could never bring my boyfriend over or I was going to hell. I couldn’t use the microwave or TV because the rays would make her sterile(yes, really.) I had to stop wandering off or she would tell my mother.
That was what she called it. She couldn’t stand having me in the house, but the second I left her sight I was abandoning her to some horrible fate. Even though I was juggling a job and school with her home care, she seemed to think all I did all day was sneak down to ‘the crick,’ which was this muddy old drainage ditch I hadn’t been near since I was a teenager. I tried locking her in when I had to leave for long periods of time and couldn’t get someone to watch her, but she still found ways to escape.
That was where she died. Not in the house, by the old ditch.
She’d had a cardiac arrest, they’d said. She had a really shocked look on her face and died with her hands clenched into fists. Of course there were rumblings about elder abuse, but my family really backed me up on this. I should have known it wasn’t for free, because then they expected me to sort out the old house by myself. Dicks.
The whole first day I just started shoveling stuff into the dumpster. Anything of value had long been encrusted with the filth of that house, so I had no qualms about getting rid of it. Towards evening I decided to knock off and look through the the books and see if there were any photo albums I should save. On a shelf in between endless issues of national geographic and one of those crockpot recipe books was the journal.
It looked like a primer from an old elementary school. Flipping through it, I could watch my aunt’s handwriting deteriorate with her mind. The fact that she’d kept a journal secret from me, even when she couldn’t wipe herself anymore, was just a little disturbing. I tucked it away for later perusal and worked until sundown.
It was weird being in the house by myself. It didn’t feel like she’d left at all, you know? I didn’t really feel alone in the house, every creak sounded like a footstep. I watched some of the forbidden TV for a while before I remembered the journal.
Maybe I had just never understood my aunt enough to like her. Maybe if I knew her thoughts, she’d become a little more sympathetic.
I cracked the book.
that boy is back again. Josh. They chose the right name for him. Never a serious moment in his life. Always joshing me about my things. Switching doors around on me. I don’t know how he moved the bathroom down the hall, but when I went in the hall closet by mistake he rolled his eyes at me.
He doesn’t know I know. How he sneaks down by the crick. I can see him from the upstairs window after he leaves for ‘work.’ work, ha. I’m onto his tricks.
July 15 18
I did it. I used some old twine to mark the trees so I wouldn’t get lost on my way back. He was there all right. Cut his hair different and dyed it another color, but I know that lazy boy when I see him. He was washing blood off his hands! What did that delinquent do now? I bet he killed another animal and left it for me to find! I’ll let him have it, you mark my words.
June July 02 20
He was there again. He wasn’t just bloody this time, he had some old rags he was burning. Probably smokes out here, too. Well, I popped right out and gave him a piece of my mind.
He straightened up in a hurry. He really tried to disguise himself, even pulled a face so he looked like a different boy. I told him off, first for lying about where he went during the day, then for trying to fool me. He squinted at me like it was all very funny, so I told him off for that. I said I would tell his mother if he didn’t start acting right. That wiped the smirk from his face. He took my hand and assured me he’d do better. Well, he damn well better, otherwise I would come down on him.
that boy. I never know what mood he’s going to be in. when he’s at home, he’s all p’s and q’s, treating me like a little child. When he creeps out for the day, he’s so polite and quiet. As long as I let him burn things and wash off in the crick, he brings me more stuffies! He brought me a mouse and two cats last time! He’s so different now, so quiet and agreeable. He told me he wasn’t really a fairy, that he loved women like me. My heart melted from it. He even reminds me to start home before dark, just in case I forget. When he comes home he pretends to be so grumpy and doesn’t know about the crick, so I play along. Tee hee! It makes me feel like a schoolgirl again.
My entire body was cold. I flipped ahead a few pages in the book, where her writing started getting really bad.
my heart is may and the whole world is spring josh loves me he loves me and says I am the girl for him
he talked about the last girl he had, she let him in her house and shared her pension with him but it wasn’t enough and he had to make sure she didn’t starve to death
I told him I would always be able to feed us and I had a whole house of treasure big enough for two and he didn’t have to worry because I hadn’t had a man since Elliott and I was still clean
he was so happy i’m so happy so happy
I flipped to the last entry
to take me away
he says he’ll take me away from all this no more bad food no more locked in the house he will take me away and I won’t have to worry ever
i brought him a key like he asked i’m bringing him a key and meet him down by the crick and he says he will show me something pretty and I will give him the key to the house