Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Living a Dream

On an almost daily basis, Sally approaches me about dreams (hallucinations?) she has. I speculate that she dreams overnight, and upon awakening, she thinks her dream was reality. She really can't tell the difference anymore.

Her dreams usually concern one of two things: (1) little items from her past of little or no monetary value, (2) people in her room.

Yesterday, she lurched toward me immediately upon sighting in the morning. She declared she'd been awake all night, because she couldn't find her "aurora" brooch and earrings.

"I was up all night, searching. Do you have them?" she asked, looking bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

From experience, I knew she'd not been up all night, or she would have looked, and felt, exhausted. She dreams about the brooch and earings on a regular basis.

The "aurora" brooch, as she calls it, has been on what's left of her mind since her arrival in Kookytown. I don't know to what brooch she's referring. From her description, I conjure up vague images of sparkly costume jewelery from my childhood memories. I've told her that if the brooch is the one I'm thinking of, that I haven't seen it in literally decades, that I think she gave it to my niece many years ago, and that in any event, it had no value, and we can go buy something nice for her sweater, if she wants.

None of this sinks in. She admits the brooch was costume jewelery. But it's important that she locate it. She refuses to dig out the picture of my niece, the one I remember at the back of her photo album, the one clearly showing Sally's grand-daughter wearing the sparkly brooch I'm thinking about.

And every few weeks, it starts over. Sally forgets that she's asked me about it. She dreams about it, and pesters me relentlessly the next day as to its whereabouts. She becomes obsessed, incapable of letting it go, driven to almost frenzied distraction.

"But I just had it last night," she'll moan.

"Well, where did you put it then?" I'll shoot back in irritated tones.

"Well, didn't I hand it to you?" She looks beseechingly at me.

"No mother. Not last night, not last month when we talked about it, and not the month before that."

Yesterday, I wrote in large letters on a clean sheet of paper: DATE, TOPIC of DISCUSSION (Aurora brooch and earings), and the note that this is the tenth time we've discussed it since she moved in with us.

I asked her to leave it on her desk in her bedroom. That way, if she thinks of the brooch (or any other things she dreams about regularly), she can refer to the sheet. And hopefully, leave me alone.

She lost eye contact with me and began the breakfast dishes, letting the tap run rivers of water as she piddled about with two cups and a saucer.

I went out on an errand, returned an hour later, and found the sheet of paper covered in her scrawls and doodles. She looked puzzled.

"You left me this note?" she asked. Clearly, she had completely forgotten our conversation and my instructions about the note.

I tried to be patient and reminded her about the morning's conversation.

"If you leave this note on your desk, you can look at it when you wake up in the night, or whenever, to remind you that we've already discussed these topics, and that I don't have these items." My lips were moving and sounds were coming out, but Sally looked like I was mooing at her.

"OK dear." She pronounced these words with kindly condescension, as if speaking to a child.

Then she shuffled away, slippers flapping, housecoat drooping tiredly on one side, and left the sheet dangling in my hands. I knew it was useless.

As for #2 above, people coming in her room in the night, it seems pretty much evenly divided between strange men who visit her sometimes, or either me or Anthony. She's got quite the lively social life, in her bedroom, at night after the lights are out and we're all asleep.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Old Souls

Yesterday I was awakened by the phone shrilling at 7am.

I snorted awake, mid-dream, probably drooling, and ran downstairs to pick it up. Normally, I'd ignore a wake-up call like that. But I thought it was Kathleen phoning from her father's place. She'd been there overnight, and had a cold, so I wanted an update.

It wasn't Kathleen.

Me: "Urmmummbleummmmmmm. Hello?"

Caller: "Oh, I need Anthony. John woke me up this morning and said I'm heading off to The Labrador today, and I don't remember a thing about it."

Me: "ErgleMurgleGurgle...what?"

Caller (obviously Doris): "They say I'm going to The Labrador, but I don't know a thing about it."

I shuffled in a confused state back upstairs.

Me: "Your mother called."

Anthony (toothbrush in mouth): "About wherler vpaoytht va?"

Me: "She's really kooky today. She thinks she's about to be whisked off on a magical mystery carpet ride to The Labrador."

Anthony: "Oh No. What did shdhher say aborlkut dfgj rcqr qa?"

Me: "She said that Fred and Sam were taking her."

Anthony: "Mrgllmmpphhhhh" (no toothbrush in mouth at this point).

Later in the day, my mother accosted me and quipped that I shouldn't be mad at her for disturbing my sleep.

"What?" I asked in my usual stunned overtone.

"Well, you came in my room last night, and woke me up. You said my snoring was keeping you awake." Sally looked pleased about it.

"Mom, I didn't go into your room last night. I didn't hear you snoring."

I could tell by her look that I'd said the wrong thing.

"Well, you most certainly did!" She glared at me.

"Oh. Right. I must have forgotten. Yeah, you 'll have to keep the snoring under control Mom."

It's just easier to lie. Way easier.

Maybe my mother should go to The Labrador with Doris. I shouldn't be able to hear her snore from that distance.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Doris called tonight to wish Anthony a "happy birthday."

Trouble is, his birthday isn't today. It's next week, on April 28th.

Close, but no cigar.

Even more troubling is the fact that when he told her the day was wrong, she admitted she really didn't know the date at all. Not today's, nor his birthday's. So why call?

I can only conclude that some motherly instinct remains. Although Doris doesn't know her ass from a tea-kettle, she does seem to sense that it was about this time of year, 46 years ago, that Anthony's 10 or so pounds entered this earth, kicking and squalling and probably needing immediate attention and food. Babies.

Bravo for Doris! Not only that she sort of remembers, but that she survived Anthony's debut. Ouch.

And now for something completely different. Here's a test for you. I will list five words. You may read them over for a minute or so. Then you can't look at them again until you reach the end of this post, whereupon I'll ask if you remember them.

Here they are. Ready?

Velvet. Face. Red. Church. Daisy. Tick, tick, tick...............

Ok, off we go. So, I took my mother for a memory test two days ago at the Kookytown General Hospital. This is the second time she's been tested since she moved here from Winnipeg.

The test is simplistic from my point of view. The only thing it will reveal is a raving lunatic. Anyone else can easily pass it. Of course, if you pass, you aren't eligible for social services. How handy.

They asked Sally questions like: (1) starting at 100, count back by 7's. (2) while looking at this picture of a cube, can you draw a similar picture right under it? (3) what is this? (they are looking at a picture of a cow) (4) now what is this? (they are looking at a picture of a rhinoceros) (5) draw the hands on this blank clock face to show 5:15 (6) what city do you live in? (7) what is the date?

Now, Sally had no idea of the date. I knew they couldn't care less about this fact, because when she told them she didn't know if it was BC or AD, they chuckled and murmured comforting crap like, "Oh well, who really knows the date?"

When it came to counting backwards by 7, it was like listening to an adding machine (or subtracting machine, as the case may be). My mother's always been good at math. She'll be able to count backwards by 7s long after she's wearing a diaper. When she counts backwards, it sounds like a machine gun rat-a-tatting: "100! 93! 86! 79! 72! 65! get my drift...

In point of fact, Sally passed the test with flying colours. Well, with colours appropriate for her age, which meant an ample pass. The staff were all impressed, cooing over her and dropping oozing compliments.

Staff: "Now, Mrs. Martin, I'm looking right at your date of birth, but I think I need my eye-glasses adjusted."

Sally: (simpering, head-nodding motion) "Why whatever do you mean?" (giggle)

Staff: "It says you are 90. You look like you are no older than 65."

At the gagging sound I then make from my corner:

Staff: "And I see that your daughter has inherited your genes!" (giggle)

Me: "Gackkkkkkkkkkkkk......"

So Sally can count backwards by 7. She knows what a cow is. And she can copy a simple geometric figure.

Can she do anything at home, other than sleep (about 14 hours/day), eat (with gusto, admittedly, and probably about 3 hours/day at minimum), and follow me around, staring glassy-eyed and open-mouthed, asking endless, repetitive questions?


But Sally comes from good stock. Tell her she's going for a memory test, and she musters every little solitary, isolated, dried-up neuron left in her cranium, and she puts on her pearls, and she goes forth to war.

Tell her someone, someone IN AUTHORITY, will be testing her memory, and a miraculous transformation takes place.

She counts backwards like a machine, draws figures like Picasso, and giggles at all the correct, if unnerving, moments.

Once out the hospital, she immediately relapses. She becomes the mumbling, incoherent, delusional, adversarial 90-year-old we know so well. She can't remember a thing, never mind the five words I told you about more toward the beginning of this post.

So, what are the words?

The five words I mentioned at the top. The ones you were supposed to remember?

Velvet. Face. Red. Church. Daisy.

So, how did you do?

Ah well, it doesn't really matter.

Sally got a couple. She couldn't remember the others, even when prompted by the staff with hints like: "It's a white flower with a yellow center."

And they told her she passed with flying colours, and no, Delia, you do not qualify for even part-time help to come to your home, to give you a break from full-time care of this large, often-inappropriate person. She's great. Really, she is.

And so are you, gentle reader.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Compression of Time Part II

Last Wednesday was the end of a job contract for me. I had temporary employment with government, which came to a close.

My co-workers took me out for dinner and drinks to say "goodbye," nice bunch that they are.

At the restaurant, the waiter asked what the occasion was.

"We're celebrating my last day at work," I answered.

"Oh!" he replied, a wide smile creasing his face. "You're retiring!"

The smile disappeared pretty fast; I must have looked completely stunned and growled back at him: "Er. Not quite, buddy."

His tip wasn't very big that night, I must admit.

I thought about his comment over the next few days, trying not to let it bother me. It must have been the bad lighting in the restaurant, I concluded.

Then, a couple of days ago, I mentioned to someone else that I'd seen my "last day" at the job I'd been doing.

"You're retiring!" she said. "Lucky you!"

I was stunned, again.

I'm 49, and can still remember quite clearly that about 10 years ago, I was regularly asked to show ID when purchasing cigarettes. Now, the law states that store clerks ask for ID if you look 25 or under.

So let's see.

Ten years ago, when I was 39, I looked 25. Or possibly younger.

Today, at 49, I apparently look about 65, retirement age.

So, I've aged 40 years in a decade, in appearance, at any rate.


Mind you, there has been a lot of stuff in the last ten years. Stress. Momentous events. More stress. Landmark occasions. Even more stress.

"You've aged two score in ten," Anthony jokes.

What a card.