My step-mother, June, lived alone until her nineties, but over time fell into the depths of dementia. With no biological children of her own, I was the one left to guide her down the path toward the end of her life. Haunted by my father's last words to me to take care of his Junie, I couldn't walk away from this difficult task.
The fight between us involved a parent figure with dementia who one moment was kind and smart and the next instant, a bratty child I was not equipped to deal with. With no help from my own siblings or from June's niece and nephews whom I'd never met, each step I took for her caused me to question my sense of right and wrong.
Armed with a handwritten list June had given to her lawyer years ago, I went to work sending off her cherished figurines and knick knacks to others. The words next to my name simply said box of personal papers. The day the box finally revealed itself to me, I was afraid to look inside. What was it she wanted me to know? What secret was hiding inside? Once safely home, I closed the door to my office, took a deep breath and slowly slid the lid off the box. After a whiff of stale smoke, I peeked inside. The box was stuffed with sympathy cards and letters June received after my father's death 25 years earlier.
As I read each letter, I walked down memory lane of my life and relationships with my parents and how June came into my life. I walked down the path to where we found ourselves today, in a place neither of us wanted to be but where we discovered a special love for each other.