We are delighted to welcome a new writer here; George Wills shares a very touching story about a friend and colleague, lost to Alzheimers.
I Remember Jack
I remember Jack, nice bloke. Ace colleague. Where he was in the production chain he could have stopped what you were doing dead in its tracks. But he never did. Nothing was too much trouble – would always add your task to the ones he was juggling, all to keep weapons in the air, to provide each nut and bolt and dab of glue and PCB and guidance system and warhead – whatever. Except his work load was like the entertainers you see who juggle an egg and a running chain saw and a set of Indian clubs whilst balancing a couple of golf clubs on their chin and sipping champagne. And he never dropped one single thing, never let a task go incomplete, helped you meet every schedule. Nice man, too. Nice family, charity worker, rembemberer of colleagues birthdays, buyer of rounds, we visited each other now and then. I remember Jack. Everyone remembers Jack.
Jack wouldn’t remember me. He wouldn’t remember most people. Mrs. Jack counts it a good day if he says “Do you know me?” He wouldn’t get home safely on his own any more. Sometimes he looks at his children, puzzled like, trying to fit them into the few pieces of the jigsaw of his life that Alzheimer’s has left him. That’s all he says to me, after twenty years of breathing the same office space, if he speaks at all – do you know me? There is a pleading to it. He doesn’t remember what has gone – but you see he misses it, whatever it was. Illness has gone into the library of his life and stolen. Casually. Randomly. Whole volumes. Sets of encyclopaedias. Chapters ripped from some books, pages from others, maybe just paragraphs or words or letters. Trivial. Vital. They took Jack with them.
He does remember though. One group of memories is untouched. He doesn’t remember love or relationships or friendships, hours I spent sharing charity stalls with him. He remembers everyone who did the dirt on him, everyone who dropped him in the shit. The idle sods who took ten minutes to tell you how they couldn’t do five minutes work – “Give it to Jack, he’ll do it”. Those who made accusations against him to cover their own idleness or incompetence or mistakes. They knew he wouldn’t fight back. Too nice. He knew it was happening, and didn’t mind. Didn’t mind then. Does now. He remembers now. Their names, the clothes they wore, their wives names, children’s’ names.
He will remember the grey suits Martin always wore, his taste in ties. Martin’s lies about Jack cost him a promotion. Martin got it. Jack will tell you now the colour of Martin’s eyes from a quarter-century ago. The fact he had twins, one of each. Where he lived. It’s like that for all of them, the people you or I wouldn’t bother to remember.
When Jack sees Mrs. Jack, he says “Do you know me?” On a good day, that is. There aren’t many.
©George Wills 2016