Ghosts in Daylight

          I see my uncle every now and then at work, but I never say hello. He drifts into the shop unexpectedly—always when I’m alone, always when I’ll notice him—looking absently into the cases. Shorter than my father, a hunched five-something, always a ring of keys dancing from his belt. I check my phone, my watch, shuffle papers with my back to him. There are scribbles in the margins of every left receipt, doodles on the back of business cards on my desk. I look up and he’s gone.

          I call my mother when I see him, like seeing a ghost in the daylight, I’m not sure if this time it's real.
          “Did he say anything to you?”
          “No,” I pause, look up from my desk. “Is he living by himself, I thought he was in a home?
          “They take them out every once-in-awhile. Outings, y’know?” And I do, but it’s something else.
“What’s wrong?” she asks me.
          I don’t say it. My co-worker comes out of the backroom and starts to read off a text message his wife sent him. I half listen. Hang up the receiver when I realize I’m still holding it.

          My mother always answered the phone when he called. Not because she wanted to, but because no one else would. Same reason she wrapped a shirt every year at Christmas. It’s just one of those things, she knows the clinical terms.
          He’s lonely since the last time. Forgot which day it was several pills ago, and the container I’m told he keeps his thoughts in doesn’t have a letter for last Thursday. One week at a time.
          Grandma forgets too, but she’s getting better. Physically. He wants to see her, but can’t. I try to remember when the last time we’ve seen him was, but can’t. The calendar doesn’t go back that far.

          It’s someone’s birthday. We are out on the lanai. There are barbequed burgers painted in sauce. Mac salad, potato salad, open bags of chips. Mom forgot the tomatoes.
          Walking down the hallway, I can hear something coming from the kitchen. No one’s talking, not even to themselves, just movement. Nothing human. The slow drag of keys across the top of the fridge.
          He’s been there before.

          Every now and then at work, I have to count the money twice. Three times. Have to have a co-worker count the bills, the change, and tell me it’s right. I count it again, look at the numbers, try to decipher what I missed. How, why, if? It’s only once in a while really, but it’s unexpected, but every time I wonder if we’ve been there before.

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