His spring and summer were now only dust on the bonfires of life, and as he looked out at the horizon, he knew more and more that it would no longer stretch on forever.
He had been young and vital once, and his dreams would have powered a city, but the lamps had dulled, and the curtains were drawn and it was going to be time up, one way or another.
Age had brought with it forgetfulness, and pains, and failing sight but he still felt each morning that he had to get up and show the universe that it should continue to invest in him – at least for one more day.
His daughter, his one and only little girl and her crummy husband, had found him, Jake, standing in car park looking for his automobile. The truth was Jake had walked there, the car was still safely lying in his garage.
It was his daughter who had made him go for the appointment to the clinic. She was a lovely woman – the doctor- and perhaps in other circumstances, they could have become friends. But it had been down to the woman to tell Jake (and his daughter and her crummy husband) that he had Alzheimer’s. And that was the goddamn beginning and end to it.
For the first few days it felt like he’d been hit by one of those Ford trucks, he’d always wanted to drive. Nothing seemed to fit into his world anymore and everything seemed to hurt.
Then one night in the second week he was watching some TV show where they were talking about dreams and how to live them. A middle-aged woman from a square state in the mid-west said her plan had been to write down all the childhood wishes that she had hoped for and maybe try and find them. The doctors had told her that she had cancer with an outlook of six months.
Was that more comforting than Jake’s diagnoses of ‘maybe years, maybe not’?
So that night when there was too much going on in Jake’s head, he got up and sat looking at the dawn and wrote what he had really wanted to do with his life.
Being a coal-miner had never been a plan of his – it had been force fed to him by a family that worried about most things and had wanted to see their family settle.
Jake had settled with a wife and two kids. His son was in the army and had returned home less and less until all Jake got was a phone call at Christmas. His daughter stayed close but he wasn’t ready for a home just yet, or for losing his independence.
His wife, Betty, God rest her soul, had taken a long time to fight the cancer and, in the end, had lost. But what a trooper – she had given that cancer a run for its money and no mistake. He missed her every second, of every minute, of every day. But at least he had gotten to know her and he took that blessing to bed with him every night.
So as Jake was sitting watching the orange sun start to invade his little porch, he wrote down the dreams he had as a kid and all of them, and I mean all of them, were all related to one thing – him, Jake Sheeny being a cowboy.
And right there and then Jake made his Goddamn mind up that he was going to sell his house (or maybe rent it out, he wasn’t too sure), sell his car, which he seemed to forget all the time, and buy a big damn horse and ride the highways as a cowboy.
Leastways until the darkness eventually overcame him – but until that day, which as the doctor said could be years, he was going go on the ride of his life.
And over the next few stories, I’m going to tell you about Jake, and how he joins a circus, and how he finds laughter, and perhaps the best friends a man can ever find – and most of all he finds love again.
The Last Cowboy will be here waiting when you’re ready.
bobby stevenson 2015
SEPTEMBER IS ALZHEIMER'S MONTH http://www.alz.co.uk/world-alzheimers-month