Even Yellow Roses Fade... “The MRI scan was conclusive. Your wife has developed Vascular Dementia.” The odd behaviours he had witnessed in the previous year or so, the day she disappeared for hours on end and the once-comical memory lapses of a senile old woman all suddenly fell into place - and the puzzle was far from a pretty one. J.R. pondered how many more months his wife would have continued, blissfully unaware of the disease that rotted her mind, had John Ross not insisted his mother be admitted for evaluation. Their son had voiced his concern for some time and the final straw snapped when he observed his mother nonchalantly request a bottle of Bordeaux for the table at their bi-weekly lunch date. How much easier it would have been, if Sue Ellen had simply sunk back down to the bottom of the bottle. The specialist advised of the evidenced link between dementia types and lifestyle factors, especially patient history of substance abuse. Sue Ellen bowed her head and fell into a subdued, silent reverie. Upon return home to Southfork, however, J.R. experienced the first of many outbursts that escalated in intensity from madness to hysteria. The need for constant care was drilled into J.R. and, as always, the family rallied to support. Ann drew up a schedule every month, the calendar jam-packed to ensure Sue Ellen maintained daily routine, and Bobby entrusted Carmen to be the private eye of the house while ranch-hands were also sequestered for round-the-clock alert, in the case Sue Ellen should wake and wander from her bedroom. Lucy pressed pause on her permanent vacation around the world every now and then and flew into Dallas with her hysterical narrative of their lives way back when. John Ross checked-in with his mother on a daily basis, and Sue Ellen often noticed Christopher warily observe her from a safe distance. In fact, the only individual who treated her relatively normally was Elena. The savvy entrepreneur often cornered her for business advice and Sue Ellen was more than happy to provide whatever assistance her memory could accommodate. For a brief period, Sue Ellen failed to manifest any of the symptoms the specialist had warned of and J.R. was deliriously convinced the doctors had made a terrible mistake. Just when the family dared to dream the same, the disease advanced and their lives spiralled into chaos, all order and intention rendered futile. Her mood became unpredictable, volatile and her behaviour erratic, driven by confusion and subsequent exhaustion. There were days when even the serenity of Southfork could not placate her mercurial temperament. John Ross bore the brunt of her fury; J.R. had arrived home at Southfork to discover their son under physical attack more than once. “I hate you, J.R.,” Sue Ellen had screeched, her voice shrill. Her brain had back-pedalled to the nastier point in their relationship, as she propelled a crystal vase at their son’s head. John Ross was the vision of J.R. in his youth and her mind failed to differentiate between the past and present. Still, John Ross preferred her ire to the days she walked beyond him, as if he were invisible. There were also moments of intense vulnerability that were infectious for those in her presence. Ann’s break-point arrived the day Sue Ellen called her ‘Mom’ and asked, in a most childlike voice, when her daddy would return home. Yet, the times of absolute lucidity also remained and J.R. revelled in her conversation and natural charm. She was smarter than anyone would ever truly appreciate. “No matter what I say or do, always remember I love you - and I have known how much you love me, too,” she provided tender reassurance once, as if she had faint recollection of an earlier altercation with their son. The worst of times occurred when Sue Ellen breached discussion about the future. J.R. blithely dismissed her permission to seek company in other women and John Ross enveloped her with promises that his unborn children would be raised with stories about Grandma, the Texas beauty queen. She and Ann crafted hand-made scrapbooks for those little ones that would arrive years later on, with letters and recipes and life advice. J.R. narrowly avoided her every attempt to breach the topic of the end. Every now and then, he would return home to her in tearful, but defiant resolution that she would end life on her own terms - more often than not, her decision had been prompted by another horror-story account of the disease she had researched online. J.R. couldn’t pretend the future didn’t terrify him, too. The vision of his wife unable to swallow solid food, or put one foot in front of another was incomprehensible but ultimately inevitable. It was a slow but steady decline. Sue Ellen there but not really there. She frequently faded and not even the bouquets of yellow roses could rouse her from the black hole into which she had descended. Then, one day she disappeared. J.R. assembled the ranch-hands to scour every inch of the land and beyond, until Ann called off the search party with the assurance that Sue Ellen had accompanied John Ross on a drive. She never returned. Seventy-two hours elapsed before John Ross reappeared alone. An indescribable bout of mania overwhelmed J.R. when John Ross climbed from the vehicle with a letter addressed to his father in his hand and Bobby held his older brother back from violence he intended to inflict on his son. The two letters of his name were written perfectly by her hand - evidence, perhaps, that his wife had conceived her course of action sometime before she had deteriorated. He opened the letter in private and succumbed to the hurricane of emotions her voice in his head compelled. Her final words to him were penned across both sides on three pieces of paper and J.R. deliberately read every word. There was no cause to blame their son; the child in him was woefully susceptible to her emotional manipulation. The decision had been hers and hers alone. John Ross had aided her escape from Southfork but played no role beyond her arrival to the clinic in Switzerland. Her heart ached for J.R. and the final farewell she had wilfully robbed him of but she had known he would refuse her last request. The warrior inside of him would have compelled her to battle onward and she was so tired; tired of their frustration, as she repeated herself for the hundredth time in a five-minute conversation; tired of the bewilderment, whenever her memory failed her heart; tired of the pain her disease inflicted. She couldn’t bare to burden their family anymore. Her death was reprieve for them all, especially him. She prayed for his clemency and beseeched him to award their son absolution. The final sentence was her profession of love for him. The words Eternally yours, Sue Ellen concluded their final communication. J.R. folded the letter back in the palm of his hand and wept for the love of his life.