At the onset, Ron could still kneel with Betty in the morning and at night, their hands linked, as he intoned a prayer — usually some form of a memorized list of thanksgiving and wants which had evolved over thirty years of married life. But the day came when she no longer understood, when she didn’t recognize him, and less the God to whom he prayed. She was angry. Worse, she didn’t understand why she was angry. It was the cognitive part of her brain, diminishing so quickly now, railing against a world that was becoming increasingly dark and hectic.

And so Ron prayed by her wheelchair, taking her hand when she would allow it, folding his own hands when she wouldn’t. His prayers evolved wildly, like flourishing life attempting every odd combination in a furious battle to adapt and survive. He prayed for her sanity, for her mind whole and pure, and later, for her ease, for peace to her sudden fears and sporadic lucidity, which was really just a view of Betty trapped in a room without an exit, only a small window that opened every so often.

By the end, by the time Betty was an infant in mind and function, Ron no longer prayed. It had come on quickly, this disbelief, this feeling of loss for a love that was here in form but gone in spirit. At first he prayed on, fighting the complex emotions, feeling one minute filled with the light of heaven, and the next guilty that he doubted such power had ever existed, or if it had, that it was gone from the world like the dinosaurs.

He spoon fed her, and changed her diapers when the mash she ate came out the other end, not much changed from the start of its trip, and thought of the mind without the soul, a fragile, beautiful thing, so full of flaw and perfection, so keen one year and dull the next. If there had ever been a soul to Betty, if she had ever been anything more than a better functioning set of synapses, then that thing, that Betty of yesteryear and eternity was fled, leaving the poorest flesh in its wake, as if its leaving had somehow damaged its vessel without killing the shell completely.

The complexity of his own mind was almost too much to bear. Ron cursed his inability to have done with God, to call him a snipe, a jackalope, a Santa Claus without the red suit. . . but he couldn’t do it. Some part of his brain — his damned fully functional brain — refused to let go, to God or Betty. And so he filled his days with silent prayers, curses, and labors; servant to a vegetable wife and a pseudo God.


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