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It was still daylight when Ken and I left our house to do a bit of shopping on that brisk Monday.  Daylight, yes, but darkness comes quickly in winter.  I had hardly parked the car in front of Radio Shack as dusk fell.  I needed only two small items: a new cord for one phone and an extension line for another, and then we were off to enjoy dinner with our friend, Jayne, at 6:30.

Getting Ken ready and out of the house to go anywhere was becoming more and more difficult as he slipped further into Alzheimer’s.  Nevertheless, he always liked getting out once he was dressed.  I believe winter is often a problem with dementia and related illnesses, the season having so much gloom — so few blue skies and sunshine.  The world had been very gray this season with lots of rain, which California has so badly needed, but the storms came one following another, often without a break.  Ken does better when the days are long, light and bright.  Each year, it has become more of a struggle getting through the dark months.  I’ve often said that December 21, is my favorite day of the year because the sun begins its return journey “home” to our house.

I looked at the time — a little before six — time enough to stop a few doors from Radio Shack and pick up a few more items at CVS Drugs.  While we were out, we might as well get everything on my list, I thought to myself, and no crowds.  I’ve always liked to shop during the dinner hour.  Nearing the checkout and with no one in line I noticed a bargain I couldn’t pass up: sugar and flour at an amazing price.  Placing two bags of each in our cart, we were still nearly alone in the store.  We paid for our purchases and moved quickly outside to the car.  

Inside our older 1995 Ford Explorer I buckled my seat belt.  “Do you have your seat belt on?” I asked Ken.  “Yes,” he answered, pointing to the belt around his waist.  When his focus is on the belt holding his pants in place, I know I can’t change his thinking.  I don’t even try.  Unbuckling my own seat belt, I leaned over to him placing my right arm around his back and the other in front of him.  Handing my left hand his seat belt I then guided the locking piece into its slot.  Moving back into my own place I rebuckled my own seat belt.

I made ready to exit the parking lot, waiting until traffic from both directions had cleared, and then began my entrance into the intersection.  Crossing the clear west-bound lane, I passed easily into the medium strip turning into the inner east-bound lane.

From the corner of my eye I had noticed the solid double line of cars coming from the direction of the freeway.  How odd they looked in the blackness — almost surreal.  Blending together in my glance the moving vehicles appeared to be a horde of great prowling beasts with enormous yellow eyes, appearing almost liquid in their pack-like movement.  Suddenly one of the automobiles — a maverick of sorts — pulled away from the mass of cars, crossing into the medium lane.  Puzzlement ran through my mind.   Was he getting ahead of the other cars using what was an illegal passing lane?  But noted he hadn’t made the necessary hard-right turn which would have placed him parallel with that line of traffic; possibly a left turn?  In any event, he was pointed in a diagonal path toward me.  I was not concerned as I believed he had time to correct his direction.  Convinced he would make the adjustment, I focused on my own traffic lane.  Within mere moments my world went black.

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