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.

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