Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother Part III

A Bad Day

The worst visit to Mom's nursing home for me this week was so bad that it's the stuff of black comedy.

As I arrived, the woman from the adjoining room waved me over. I hadn't seen her on this trip so far, but she had in the past often given me very helpful updates on my Mom. "Hello, [name deleted]," I said.

"Hello," she greeted me with her raspy voice. "Could you help me?"

"Of course," I said, "What can I do for you?"

"I'd like to die, now. Could you kill me?"


"You have to hurry, though, before the staff come back."

The evening went steadily downhill from there...

The aid who brought my mother's supper tray told me that Mom hadn't eaten or drunk anything all day. The pressure was therefore on for me to get something into her.

Mom took two sips of soup, and then carefully held out the cup at arm's length. Thinking that she was aiming for her tray table, though way off the mark, I attempted to intercept it. This provokes a very hostile reaction. "What do you think you're playing at! Let go!"

"Oh, sorry. I thought you were looking for the tray table."

Mom gives me a disgusted expression as if I am a total moron, and says, "I was passing it to Evie, as you could see plainly see. What did you think you were doing, ripping it out of her hand like that?" and proceeds to stretch her arm out once again. Where the cup hovers precariously, and begins to tip onto the floor. I again attempt to catch the falling cup, and mom again goes ballistic at my interference. "What is wrong with you? This is completely unacceptable behaviour! It is not appropriate to grab my cup out of my very hand. If you interfere with us again, I shall have to ask you to leave." And again proffers the cup to her long dead sister.

"Evie's not here," I say. "This is your soup, and you need to drink it."

Again, Mom tilts her head and takes on this look of complete incredulity that anyone could have the gall to maintain something so patently absurd. "What do you mean 'Evie's not here?' She's sitting right there. You can see her," [Points] "on that wicker chair right there. That's Evie! Now stop being so rude!" And so on.

Eventually I give up arguing with her over who's there -- because, truth be told, I'm not absolutely positive that just because I and the staff can't see or hear them, that mom's family aren't in fact sitting around visiting her. Mom's not only completely convinced, she's convincing. I'm not sure whether I find this creepy or reassuring, but there is a long tradition in our culture that those on the other side sometimes crowd 'round to welcome you to the next world. Fair enough, if spending time with her family helps her with the transition.

But on this particular evening, Mom refused to eat at all. "I've already eaten, thank you. I had two great big buns, and a huge bowl of soup, and turkey, and desert, and there is simply no way I could take another bite." When I pointed out that they had just brought her meal and it was sitting untouched on the tray table in front of her, I was again on the receiving end of that disgusted look that I was contradicting not only her but the obvious facts sitting in plain sight. "You can see my empty plate right there! I had these two great big buns, and--"

"Mom, they don't serve buns here. You haven't had a bun in four years."

"How would you know? You weren't here when I was eating them." And so on. Again, the facts as I know them are in direct contradiction of the facts of which she is equally sure. She has eaten a huge meal with her family, and is now sitting having a quiet cup of tea, and what am I on about?

In the end I had to go home with nothing concrete to show for my visit, except for my own grieving: seems to me, if she is not only spending all her days visiting beyond the veil, but now taking her meals there as well, it may not be long before she moves there permanently.

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