On a night in late November, 2005, I drove through the aftermath of a blizzard, the furrow of road bounded by looming hummocks of snow. At times I drove blind, visibility lost in whiteouts when winds churned up the snow.
All day, I’d stayed with Dick in his Deer River hospital room. I sat by the window, watching rain turn to snow. At six that evening, he was discharged. He couldn’t stay another night, despite his anxiety, despite the fact that my six-foot-tall husband weighed only 135 pounds due to his fear that food would get stuck in his throat.
The only option, the doctor said, was for me to take him to a geriatric psychiatric unit an hour away. So we went home, packed a few of his things, and left for Bemidji. The car cleaved the snow, plowing into the dark night that lay beyond the headlights. I couldn’t see the road ahead.
He was admitted for anxiety and depression. The staff noted that Dick had “grief related to his memory disturbance.” He expressed “feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.” He felt defeated.
Dick remained hospitalized in a locked ward for fourteen days. The walls of his narrow room were pale green—a green with the life drained out of it. A streetlight outside the single window gave off a sallow glow.
During that time, he wrote many notes to me. They read like desperate dispatches from a drowning man, as my husband struggled against dementia’s strong pull.