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Breath & Shadow

Fall 2010 - Vol. 7, Issue 4

"What If?"

written by

Donna Beveridge

I forget the hours I worked yesterday.

and I am afraid.

I forget the characters in the book I finished today.

and I am afraid.

I misplace papers, my purse, checks.

and I am afraid.

I lose the train of a conversation,

struggle to speak the word I want.

and I am afraid. I stress over organizational details

that used to be easy;

I miss the payment of a bill.

and I am afraid.

I don’t tell my friends or my children.

I am afraid.


I share my fears with my partner.

She soothes me,

says it’s the stress of taking on too much,

but I’ve always taken on too much,

and I’m afraid.


I know that most people past fifty

who forget

an appointment,

or the name of their doctor,

or where they place their keys

consider a possible cause,


then firmly

dismiss it,

pooh pooh it,

chuckle and turn it into a joke,

convince themselves that

it is only the brain’s reflexes

slowing with age.


They tuck their tattered fears

into the back of a dark closet

where they’ll unlikely stumble across them

until they go looking for

a gift bought on sale months ago

or snowshoes after a fresh snow,

or a larger jacket to cover that extra five pounds.

And there it is next to

an old pair of shoes they don’t wear any more --

that fear.

They try to tame it --

pat it on the head,

feed it a snack, make a soft bed for it from an old camp pillow.

Or maybe

they tell it

to scoot,

leave the closet and the house

(back door, if you don’t mind),

and find some other place to live,

some other person to scare.


As for me,

I close that closet door,

open a book that I

know I’ll remember this time,

pick up the phone

and talk with my son about lilacs and landscaping --

anything except Alzheimer's --

and sigh with relief

that the bogeyman is gone

and wasn’t it silly that I was afraid.


But -- what if...?

Donna Beveridge is a retired elementary teacher/literacy specialist. Her guided learning books for early readers have been published by Richard Owen Co. Since her diagnosis, she has focused on writing and painting her journey with dementia and doing advocacy work for the Alzheimer's Association. Donna lives in Saco, ME, with her partner, Betsey, and her labradoodle dog, Sophie. E-mail her at

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