Here is an excerpt from my novel, The Baby Bones.
Aunt Dottie has been in the nursing home for ten months now and she seems to be adjusting as well as can be expected. Her days of lucidity have become as scarce as a blue moon, and her daily ravings have started to take on a manic quality. Several times in the past few months, I had been called to the nursing home to participate in care plan meetings, which basically help all the health care providers be on the same page with caring for Aunt Dottie. Apparently, some of the nursing aides had become concerned because Dottie continued to ramble about a baby in a trunk. She had started having nightmares and would wake up screaming, “The baby’s in the trunk.”
When I would visit Aunt Dottie, she would frequently mention the baby in the trunk. I couldn’t understand how my beloved aunt had no recollection of me most days when I would visit, but she could regularly talk about this unknown baby.
I had been questioned several times about the possibility of Aunt Dottie having a child no one knew about, or maybe the possibility a baby entering her life in other way. With only nieces and nephews left of the family, I had quarried everyone, but they all knew just what I did. Aunt Dottie had never been married, never had any children and never expressed any desire to have a baby.
I had met with the charge nurse only two weeks ago to discuss Aunt Dottie’s declining health. She had reassured me that everything possible was being done to treat Dottie, but her dementia had progressed to a terminal phase where medication was no longer therapeutic. Typically, antianxieties are the drug of choice to keep Dottie calm and prevent her from hurting herself. She continued to talk about the baby in the trunk, but the charge nurse reassured me this was probably something cross-wired in her brain from the past. She was remembering one particular instant in time, but all the pertinent facts are scrambled up. The baby was probably a niece or nephew, and the trunk was her memory of trying to keep them safe. She said this was a normal progression of the disease and all they could do was keep her comfortable.
What would you do if you opened up a box and found a skeleton? I would have thought I would have screamed, but when I saw the bones so tiny and fragile and frail, my mind started racing a hundred miles an hour. How could my Aunt Dottie do such a thing? How could she hide a baby like this?
“The baby’s in the trunk.” When I would visit Aunt Dottie, she would frequently mention the baby in the trunk, but today was the first time she had mentioned Becky Dillon. I couldn’t understand how my beloved aunt had no recollection of me most days when I would visit, but she could remember someone who died 35 years ago.
We had met with Dottie’s healthcare team and were told this was a normal progression of this type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease. She was remembering one particular instant in time, but all the pertinent facts are scrambled up. But today, when Dottie mentioned the baby in the trunk, the hairs at the back of my neck would stand on end.
What if there really was a baby in a trunk? Where was the trunk? How did the baby get in the trunk? Questions I was really not wanting to answer any time soon.
What prompted me to go to her house and search for the trunk? I don’t think I will ever know for sure, but I think a part of me deep down inside really believed what Aunt Dottie was saying about the baby. I became afraid she was telling the truth, and in my search to always find the truth, I believed her. I thought I was just going to the house to settle my curiosity about the trunk, but what I found changed the foundation of my life. Aunt Dottie’s raving had ignited my curiosity; I just hoped I wasn’t going to regret being curious.
Aunt Dottie bought her house in the early 1960s and she had lived there as long as I could remember. She was a Registered Nurse at Harrodsburg General. She was the youngest of three girls, fiercely independent and never married. I never heard any unsavory rumors about Dot, but I’m sure there must have been a few men in her life. She was very respected and as far as I knew, didn’t have an enemy.
Today when I went to her house, I was overwhelmed with memories, little ghosts from my past flashing through my brain like dandelions on the wind. There I was, swinging from the braches of a hundred year oak tree in Aunt Dot’s front yard; roller skating down her steep driveway and skinning my knees when I fell; dropping to the ground and then rolling down the grassy front lawn – man, I had such fun at this house when I was growing up.