My dear, sweet stepfather suffers from Alzheimer’s and — more recently — was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. We were watching TV, and I turned to a channel playing an old movie. On the screen a blond actress was cracking wise. I said, “Maybe that’s Carole Lombard.” He shook his head: “Jean Harlow,” he corrected me, adding, “with Lee Tracy.” The movie, I learned, was Bombshell.
The next day, as the two of us had lunch, my stepfather had been sitting silently, sporadically seeming to nod off. Out of nowhere he smiled at me, and said, with emotion, “Your mother is very dear to me; she’s a huge part of my life.”