She wandered his office, examining its
Contours and borders
The way she wandered her own mind now
Looking for familiar shapes, for doorways
She had walked through before, and
Windows that opened on familiar scenes.
He the doctor, but not here the healer;
She the wife, mother, grandmother, friend,
Here the patient, here the one carrying
The ever-increasing weight of the ultimately empty burden
Someone names Alzheimer’s disease.
Now and for some time, Ann’s disease
Called sometimes the great unlearning
Unlearning from this moment backwards
Until: who was this man at home (was this home?)
who cared for her with devotion but
whose face and voice were those of a stranger.
“I’m going away for a little while, Ann,”
the doctor said, “I’m going to the beach.”
That stretch of sand, that moving tide in full light
United both their hearts, and she smiled.
“Ann,” he asked, “what is it you love about the beach?”
Silence and distracted glance; regretted question
He thought she could not answer,
Not frame a structure to hold the words,
Nor find the words to hang there, to
Bring meaning to light, intention to expression.
But then she spoke, quietly, looking eye to eye
Directly. She said, “There is a kind of music
That lives there.”
His heart leapt for the wisdom singing full
from the ruined choirs of this human brain.
One radiant moment in a darkened room
When the patient healed the physician.
John P. McGinty