One day the smirking hiring hall agent that is Fate will read your name off a card. He’ll shake the card in your direction while you desperately look around for somebody else to take it. But nobody will, so the job falls to you.

We put off moving my father downstairs to the locked memory ward as long as we could. Not that it mattered much to him. My father doesn’t care what couch he sits on.

But my mother cares. Very much. She met him when she was 18 and a freshman at Ohio State. Now she is 87. Do the math. They married in 1956. She wants him on the sofa next to her.

They’d lived together for two years at a senior residence facility in Buffalo Grove. He had been having … umm … issues. Behavior that no dynamic lifestyle community is going to tolerate in the general population. Memory care ward level stuff. They pressed, we delayed.

But there was another episode, and suddenly the ground was gone from under us. They were moving him whether we agreed or not.

Or more accurately, I was moving him. Now was the time. My brother and my wife provide continual, crucial help. But not today. Today Fate handed me the card.

Time to walk my father’s downstairs to his new home. I checked with the staff to determine their role. Just do it, they said. I returned to their room 216. He was on the couch, watching TV with my mother. Time for the earth to shift.

“Lets go, dad,” I said, helping him stand up and setting his walker before him. I’d take a few steps, his pillow under my arm. then pause, waiting for him to catch up. “How you doing, Dad?” I’d call back, turning to check on his progress. We went downstairs. I pressed a doorbell. They saw us through the narrow window and buzzed us in.

The dementia patients were together, having snacks when their new associate arrived. Quesadilla or yogurt? I went to put his pillow in his room and returned. My father was talking to the people around him.

“You don’t get older in Boulder,” he was telling them. His standard quip. He thinks he’s still in Colorado. Rhyme is the last thing to go. Along with obscenity.

Leaving him with his snack, I went back to my mother, sitting in her wheelchair, alone in her room.

“Hug me,” she said when I walked in. I did, leaning over.

“No one to talk with …” she sang softly. “All by myself.”

“No one to walk with,” I joined in. “But I’m happy on the shelf.”

My mother sang with the USO. Flew to Europe on an Army Super Constellation with the Coca Cola Radio Nanigans when she was 16 to entertain the troops. I know 1950s hit songs by heart the way a child raised in France knows French.

“Ain’t misbehavin’, I’m saving my love for yooouuuu …” we crooned together.

Give it time, I told my mother, when we had finished the song. It’s an adjustment. He’s just downstairs. Not far. You can visit him whenever you want.

My father seemed to do well in memory care. More engaged, the staff said. Participated in balloon volleyball. Though he did ask about my mom a lot. How is she? Is she OK? And he sometimes seems to think he’s on a ship. Calls his room a “cabin.”

But my mother was bereft. She missed him and hated visiting him in memory care. The residents depress her. Plus living in separate rooms pushed up the cost. Their life savings are draining away like water from a leaky bucket.

I found myself quizzing their aides.

“He’s not dead yet,” a Caribbean helper said in a lilt. “A couple need to be together. Even if you have to take them away.”

That made sense. You’re an adult, Ma, I said, you’re still in charge. What do you want? She wanted her husband. Which meant moving. My brother and I returned to the search and found a place in Addison. Addison is 15 minutes further from my house than Buffalo Grove. But they can live together, and it costs about half the amount for a smaller, homelike setting. The big move is Monday.

My wife sometimes suggests I’m a good person for coping with all this, the constant logistics. I always disagree, replying: “You mean there’s a choice?” I don’t see a choice. They brought me into this world. It’s only fair to help them on their slow journey out of it. Fate handed me the card.

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