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Chuck Hinman: A smell that really turns me on

The perfume carries the fragrance of lily of the valley, peach and plum blossoms, jasmine and musk, and when his Connie wore it he was more aware of her presence that her genes seemed to be talking to him, he writes.
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column: Chuck Hinman: What I Respect About My Best Friend

By Chuck Hinman

A smell that really turns me on

In 1989, our daughter was wearing a fragrance that really tantalized my sense of smell. It was a new product by Elizabeth Arden called Red Door. Connie, my wife, always liked for me to pick out her fragrances for her, because she said I spent more for the scent than her conscience would allow her to spend.

She began wearing Red Door and its fragrance started my sense of smell on a roller coaster ride. I loved it then and I love it now.

Red Door is said to be heavily laden with lily of the valley, something called ylang-ylang, peach and plum blossoms, jasmine, and musk. Experts say it is a white floral scent used equally well in the daytime and evening.I don't know about all that "woman-talk." All I know is that when Connie wore it, I was more aware of her presence and her genes seemed to be talking to my genes in an "unknown tongue." In short, I was "turned on" by THAT fragrance!

About the same time Connie was beginning to show signs of early onset Alzheimer's Disease. Little by little she lost the ability to handle her personal hygiene. Connie was very picky about personal cleanliness and in caring for her personal needs I found out quickly that she expected me as her caregiver, to take care of her personal needs as completely as I did my own.

In taking complete care of her body I also inherited the job of applying her fragrance. She was still using Red Door cologne spray of which I never tired. I guess because I liked it so well, I had a tendency to overkill its use. I had the man's mentality that if a little bit is good, a lot is better.

I remember having a discussion with my granddaughter about the use of cologne spray.

As I remember the conversation, Kasi thought it was tacky if the moment you came in the presence of someone who wreaked of their cologne, you noticed it -- that was "low-brow" and to be avoided. She said that if someone told her as a compliment, they liked her cologne spray, then she was embarrassed and knew she had overdosed. She blew my world of cologne expertise all to pieces!

But I didn't follow her advice. My justification -- why wear it at all if you don't want others to notice it? Red Door is not inexpensive!

Over the AD years I eventually spent a lot of time shopping for pretty clothes for my wife. I became aware her mind was being destroyed little by little and she lived mostly by simple sensory perception which has never been known to be affected by AD.

Her sense of smell, vision, hearing, touch, and taste were apparently intact when she passed away. Capitalizing on that I wanted her to be the best dressed, the best groomed, the best smelling victim of dreadful AD. I believed that knowing that she was "squeaky clean" and smelling like a million dollars was like spraying her with liquid emotion. It made her sense that she was special even when her mind was being systematically destroyed.

I don't know how many times when she was all dolled-up, and smelled good, she even had an air of confidence that she was someone special. She carried herself with a classy bearing that made me so proud to walk arm-in-arm with her. Even with her affliction, she greeted and spoke to everyone with her limited ability to speak. She was speaking with her heart! And she was SPECIAL!

Everyone knew and loved that beautiful lady with the disarming smile (who smelled so good).

When I took her burial clothes to the mortician, I also enclosed the remaining bottle of her Red Door perfume. I remember the several times I was alone with her at the funeral home, I could always smell her trademark odor as I leaned over to kiss her.

Several days after the funeral was over, I dropped by the funeral home to pay the bill. Before I left, the funeral director, Mr. Walker, handed me the bottle of Red Door cologne and suggested that I might want to keep it. I SURE DID WANT TO KEEP IT!

As I started the car to leave, I sprayed a little of the Red Door on the back of my hand as I had done so many times. I didn't realize that by so doing, I would become emotionally incapacitated to drive.

I had to shut the motor off while I collected myself from a thousand memories. Within a few minutes I was all right and I returned home.

I keep that partially used bottle of Red Door perfume on my kitchen counter. Quite often when I am dressed up and going somewhere, before I go out my apartment door, I spray a little dab of Red Door on the back of my hand -- and frequently put the back of my hand to my nose to remind me of Connie's presence as I go on my way.

No one knows but me what this little ritual is all about.

I am "turned on" by that smell as much today as I was when I first smelled it fifteen years ago in 1989. I suspect that when the present bottle is used-up, I will buy another!

Written by Chuck Hinman, ImPeruvians Writing Club, April 27, 2004

This story was posted on 2012-06-24 12:00:36
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