|Jonathan Raven is Lost appeared in the June 2011 edition of the e-zine of Gay Flash Fiction|
Jonathan was sitting upright in his chair, staring hard at the television. On it was some daytime program about buying houses, the usual cheap and mindless rubbish they filled the morning schedule with. I sat next to him, in a matching chair, and watched it with him.
We were sitting together in the home’s TV lounge, a smaller lounge with the large television set up in it. We were the only people in it, occasionally another resident would wander in there but just as quickly they’d wander out.
Previously, Jonathan had hated television. He would mock me whenever I wanted to watch it and he’d snap at me if I had the television on in the background. As his mind had deteriorated he’d become more interested in television. Now he’d watch it twenty-four hours a day, if we let him, but sometimes I’d use it as a distraction when I visited him, so we could just sit together quietly. If the television wasn’t on he’d chatter on endless about bloody Dom Richards.
It started by him forgetting numbers and words he used every day. He couldn’t remember what his keys were called, what our meal was called, what colour his shirt was. The day he forgot my name was heartbreaking, he’d stood in front of me in tears because he couldn’t remember my name. It was then he admitted there was a problem and finally agreed to see his doctor.
After an almost endless round of tests, and a referral to a specialist, Jonathan was finally given his diagnosis; he had Alzheimer’s Disease. It was so final and complete, no hope of treatment and cure. We had both withdrawn with that diagnosis, Jonathan into denial and me in hopelessness.
Jonathan’s ten years older than me and I had always expected that his health would fail before mine, I’d even silently prepared myself for it. I’d expected it would be something like cancer or heart disease, a slow disease that would gradually take away his physical abilities, and I would care for him throughout all of this. I never expected that it would be his mind that would fail, while his body remained as healthy as mine.
To begin with, as his mind forgot the names of more things, Jonathan had reacted with anger. He’d get frustrated at his inability to remember and lash out in anger, rarely at me but usually at the object in question – at that time he broke three different kettles. Then, almost overnight it seemed, he forgot that he couldn’t remember. His lack of memory seemed of no concern to him, and he settled down into a happy fog of his Alzheimer’s. At first, I’d been relieved the anger had stopped, it was an anger that I couldn’t do anything to prevent. Only much later did I realise he’d begun to forget about me.
Even when he would forget my name he’d still remember who I was, his lover, but in that happy fog he’d forget who I was. He’d been calling me Dom for nearly two weeks when I realised what was happening. He’d forgotten about me, now he called me by the name of his first lover because that was all he could remember. When I realised that, I locked myself away in our bathroom and wept.
He’d met Dom Richards back in the seventies. Jonathan had come to London to be gay, after years of trying not to be, and Dom was only the third man he’d slept with yet they fell into a relationship. Dom, though, was the cliché of the self-hating closet case. He was terrified that anyone would find out he was gay; he would only meet Jonathan at gay clubs or at Jonathan’s flat, nowhere else. Dom drank heavily which would lead to fights and often ended with Dom hitting Jonathan. They would break up, only to be back together a week later, with drunken sex. As abusive as their relationship was Jonathan couldn’t break away from it, the pull of sex with Dom was too great.
His escape came when Dom was arrested and later jailed for attacking another man outside a club. Dom was gone from Jonathan’s life for six months and with that absence he was finally able to break away.
It was many years after this that I meet Jonathan but part of him was still hurting from that relationship and it shocked me how much. I was such an innocent back then. But the longer we were together the less hold and hurt Dom Richards had over him. I was quietly proud of that.
When Jonathan called me Dom it broke my heart. I struggled on for nearly two months after that but as each day passed I coped less. Jonathan would chatter about things he’d obviously done with Dom Richards and inside I would scream with frustration. I should have been the one he remembered, not that bastard. In the end I told our social worker I couldn’t cope and she made the arrangements for Jonathan to move into this Care Home.
The staff here are so good with Jonathan and they treat me the same as any other spouse, but I still feel a failure. I’m his lover and I should be the one looking after him, allowing him to move in here has meant that I’ve failed in my promise to him. I visit him every day but it still isn’t the same, I should be doing more even if he doesn’t love me anymore because he’s forgotten who I am.
“Dom, remember that day we went down to Brighton?” Jonathan suddenly asked.
I gripped the chair’s arms in frustration.
“No,” I said, “I’m Steve…”
4 thoughts on “Jonathan Raven is Lost by Drew Payne”
Oh my. It strikes me that Steve is also m issing.. And how many layers of loss there are here. I have worked with brain injured people who may as well be completely different people when it comes to t heir loved ones.. yet if a partner left someone in that situation, i suppose they would be villefied for it. But it’s not the same person.. and that seems the same here. Here we are, evolved to pair bond and to havve deep loving relationships, but how these bonds end is so undignified and sad. Thanks for exploring this, Drew.
Wow you so get what I was trying to write about.
I’ve nurses people with dementia and it can be heart breaking watching their loved ones try and cope with it. I’ve seen people mourn and behind to pull away, long before the person with dementia has died, and I never blamed them for a moment.
I also wanted to write something were it’s the problems of older life affecting the relationship. I find so much gay writing is about finding a lover, not about how you live together as partners.
For those who may be confused, Drew had to change the name of in the title of this story, as someone in RL had the same name and requested the change.
As I re-read this story, Drew, I cried. It resonates with anyone who has had to care for someone with dementia, or for anyone who is a carer. It is such a difficult role, and while those who are being cared for do appreciate it, they cannot always express that. My mother has dementia and it is so terribly painful. She does live in a nursing home and I think that really is the best place for her and our family. As much as we love her, we have a right to our own lives, and the people in the home do a professional and caring job, as I am sure you know, Drew. 🙂