Guest post by Daniel T Hylton
I am shocked - shocked! - to know that I am sixty years old. And my lovely wife, though she doesn't look it, is fifty-nine, for crying out loud.
Wasn't it just last week that we were teen-aged lovers, standing beneath the lilacs in front of her father's house, stealing kisses as her brothers made the porch light flicker?
Alas - no, we are no longer so young. But, really; how did sixty get here so fast?
This year, I was made to know my age, like it or not. Back in March, three days before my sixtieth birthday, I was squatting down, watching my grandson play a game on his bedroom floor. My legs began to ache, so I stood up - too quickly. I blacked out and over I went, performing an exquisite face-plant on the carpet, breaking my nose, three teeth, my jaw in two places, and my skull in one. These fractures, though of a hairline nature and consequently inoperable, nonetheless allowed an infection in which temporarily ruined my health and destroyed nearly all of 2014 for me. I have never been so sick for so long in the whole course of my life. Sixty, apparently, for me, anyway, arrived like an out-of-control locomotive.
Now, my lovely wife has never had a good memory, nor an ability to manage time. These aren't new developments, no product of age; they were true when I met her - and she was seventeen at the time. So, I always figured that if she started to slip mentally, I might not notice, at least for a while. What concerns me now is that I might not notice her starting to lose it because I'm beginning to slip.
I have always possessed a great, precise, and wonderfully dependable memory. Don't take my word for it; ask anyone that knows me. It's been a blessing throughout my life. Now, however, I'm a bit concerned. Here; allow me to illustrate with a story which is, sadly, true. A few months ago.....
In July, we went to a family reunion which was held at a large hotel in Nevada. Karen and I stayed in the "new part" of the hotel, a section that had recently been added on to the main building. Because of this we were required to take two different elevators in order to get to our room which was on the fourth floor, one from the lobby in the "old part" up to the second floor where we would then angle around a corner and board a second elevator to go on up to our room.
In my defense, it must be noted that both hallways - the one on the second floor, and ours, up on the fourth, look exactly alike, same carpet, same mirrors, same paintings, same everything. Bear that in mind, if you would. Besides that, remember, I had just busted my head on the bedroom floor a scant four months earlier.
One morning, Dad and Mom wanted to meet their children in the coffee shop by the lobby for donuts and hot beverages. Karen, who had worked very hard right up to the moment we left on the trip, was given leave to sleep in while I went down to join my parents, brothers, and sisters.
We visited, laughed, and talked while consuming way too many donuts and enjoying cappuccinos, lattes, and the like. Finally, after a couple of hours, I decided to go up and retrieve my lovely wife so that we might begin the day's festivities.
I got on the elevator, went up to the second floor and, still chuckling at my older brother's anecdotes, slipped off the elevator and went down the hall to "our" room.
Now, we were in room 4017. Leaving the elevator, forgetting to angle around the corner, I went straight down the look-alike hall to the look-alike door of 2017, pulled out my room card and then stared in disbelief at the key slot to our room.
There was a blue "guest has checked out, please clean" tab stuck into it.
Well, more than a bit annoyed, I indignantly yanked that sucker out and slid in my room card.
Nothing happened. No green light telling me to go on in. Nothing but red.
Even more annoyed, I knocked, calling for Karen to answer.
Knocked again. Harder. Yelled again. Louder.
Tried the key card again.
Knocked again. Yelled again. No answer.
I was really annoyed now - and a bit worried. The whole situation was beginning to get me rattled.
I mean, locked out of my room, sign says we've checked out, my wife won't answer.
What's Going On?
I was rapidly climbing the emotional scale toward high dudgeon. I looked around. Two doors away, one of the ladies that do housekeeping was standing by her cart, frowning at my display of distress.
"My wife is in there - we haven't checked out!" I told her, too loudly. In my irritation, I waved the blue tab at her. "This thing is wrong! We have not checked out!"
Her frown deepened. She tried to explain to me that such matters weren't really in her purview - and that I needed to go down to the front desk to straighten it out.
This only heightened my sense of confusion and worry.
"No!" I yelled. "Listen to me! My wife is in that room! We have not checked out!"
Way too loud.
Her eyes widened and she slipped back into the room she had been cleaning. And shut the door. And threw the safety bolt.
Just then, I remembered my cell phone. I whipped it out and dialed Karen's cell. And - thank God - she answered.
"Honey - open the door!" I told her. "I'm right outside and my key card won't work."
"Okay," she replied. "I'll be right out."
Relieved, I hung up and waited expectantly by the door.
Minutes passed. Where was she? What in the world could she be doing?
What in Heaven's name is going on?
While once more rapping my by-now severely bruised knuckles yet again upon the door, yelling for Karen to Open Up, For Crying Out Loud - my eye fell upon the number, and, at last, my brain flipped over and slid into its proper slot.
Crap, I thought, crap. What an idiot - and an obnoxious one, to boot.
Glancing guiltily toward the room that sheltered the terrified housekeeper, I skulked down the hall, slunk around the corner, and took the elevator up to the fourth floor.
Where my key card, unsurprisingly, worked.
Karen was safely inside, sitting on the bed, looking up at me as I came in with what can only be described as an exceedingly puzzled expression on her pretty face. I swear, at that moment, she looked like she was hearing the Twilight Zone theme song blaring loudly and insistently in her head.
"I opened the door," she said. "Where did you go?"
"I was in the wrong hallway," I explained. "Why didn't you call me back on my cell?"
She blinked. "The wrong hallway?"
"Yeah, I got off the elevator on 2 and, you know how the halls all look the same, and I forgot that I had to get on another to come up to 4, and, anyway - why didn't you call me back?"
She stared at me for a moment longer, still trying to process my explanation, and then frowned down at the cellphone in her hand.
"Because I couldn't remember Nevada's area code," she said.
I stared back at her and felt my residual frustration evaporate and a grin take possession and spread out over my features. "Honey," I replied gently, "our phones are not from Nevada. They're from Texas - like us. Besides, all you have to do is activate the one that says 'Daniel'."
"Oh," she said, then. "Yeah."
When it finally dawned on the both of us what had just happened, well, we laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and.....
"We can never tell anyone," she giggled, wiping her eyes.
She grew serious then. "No - I mean you can never tell anyone - okay?"
"Okay," I agreed.
And I won't, either, as long as my memory holds.