The always-made bed

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Two single beds sat beside one another. One, unmade, sheets uneven, looked as though it had just been slept in. The other, made, simple—a single sheet on it. A black winter cap lay at the head of the bed, untouched for days, maybe months on end.

The rest of the room contained women’s clothing. Clean clothes hung up in the closet, brand new adult briefs still in the package on the shelf, and women’s socks on the floor beside the bed.

Dorothy sat in the other room, watching TV, holding close her little stuffed dog. She smiled and talked to the dog as if he were real. “I’m going to go eat lunch,” she told him. “You can follow me in there.”

The unmade bed belonged to Dorothy. The made bed belonged to her husband, a man who had passed away over a year before.

Dorothy often asked about her husband. “Where’s Jack?” she’d say. “I think he’s downstairs, working,” the family would offer. “Oh, he’s always working,” she’d smile, accepting this new truth.

Dorothy was glad that her husband was still nearby. And, for a woman whose world existed in about 15-minute time frames, this reality was perfect.

“We left the bed in the same condition as the day that my dad passed away,” her son said. “It’s better for my mom…I think it’s a comfort for her.”

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Rachael Wonderlin has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of two published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. She owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting company.

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