After cleaning the house on Sunday, I was in the shower and Bill was patiently waiting his turn while he sat in the office playing Solitaire on his computer.
As I lathered up, I thought I heard the distinctive sound of the Red Menace coming out of Mom’s bedroom, which meant she was up from her first nap of the day. I quickly rinsed off as I listened to her motoring down the hall toward the living room and, I presumed, into the Arizona room where I knew she’d be looking for me.
I squirted out a blob of shampoo and prepared to wash my hair, but stopped when I heard her returning up the hall. I mentally braced myself, waiting for her to bump the door open to see if I was in the bathroom, but instead she stopped just short of the bathroom at the office door.
“Where are the women?” I heard her say to Bill.
“Women? What women?” he responded.
“You know, the women. Where’d they go?”
“I don’t know,” he stuttered. “In the bathroom maybe?”
“What in the world would they both be doing in there?” she asked sharply.
“Taking a shower?” he offered lamely.
“Well that’s just not right,” she huffed. “I never took a shower with Shirley in my whole life and she’s my sister. That’s just not right.”
“Okay then,” he replied, still sounding somewhat befuddled, “if they’re not in the bathroom, I don’t know where they are.”
This was met with an abrupt harrumph, followed quickly by her rolling away, back down the hall toward the living room once again. Thinking that was the end of it, I quickly shampooed my hair, rinsed and turned off the water.
And then I heard the Red Menace returning up the hall.
“Crap,” I muttered to myself. I grabbed my bath towel, wrapped it snuggly around myself and stepped out of the shower onto the bath rug just as she slammed into the door with the wheelchair. I stepped quickly out of the way as the door stop slammed into the wall and the door ricocheted back toward the door frame.
“Oh, there you are,” she said brightly, ignoring the paint chips that snowed off the front of the door onto the floor as she backed up. “I was just coming to tell him that you and Bill went for a walk.”
“Him?” I asked, wiping water out of my eyes.
“You know, him, in there,” she said, indicating the office with a left jerk of her head. “Anyway, never mind, I guess you didn’t go.”
“Nope. Just trying to take a shower,” I sighed.
“Okay then, I guess I’m going to lay down for a while,” she replied.
“Didn’t you just get up?”
“Yes, but I was just resting my eyes. This time I’ll probably rest more than that.” And with that she performed a perfect U-turn, then hung a left into her bedroom just as Bill poked his head out of the office doorway.
“Is it safe to get in the shower,” he whispered.
“I guess it is, as long as Shirley isn’t in there with you,” I laughed.
“Was there a man in the hall?” Mom asked as she wheeled out of her bedroom after her morning nap.
“Nope,” I commented, swiveling my chair around to face the office doorway where she had parked.
“Well I heard a man talking to another man about selling the house.”
“Nope. No men, no house selling,” I replied.
“But I heard them as plain as day and they were talking about what the price would be.”
“Maybe you were dreaming,” I offered.
No, I was awake. I was laying there and I was sure I heard them.,” she said, shaking her head. “I just don’t get it.”
“Well Mom, you’re getting older and you have a little touch of dementia and sometimes you’re going to hear things that aren’t really there.”
“No, that’s not it,” she countered unequivocally. “It’s my pillow. It’s really weird.”
“Your pillow is weird? Why would you think it’s your pillow?”
“Because the only time I hear things is when I’m lying on my pillow. It must pick up electricity or something.”
Yes, you know, like radio or TV signals. Or maybe it’s those stupid cell phones. They cause brain cancer you know.”
“No, I didn’t know that. I guess Bill and I are doomed,” I laughed.
“Maybe the next time you’re out,” she said, turning away and starting down the hall, “you could pick up a new pillow for me. Get one with feathers. I don’t think feathers can attract electricity.”
“Okay Mom,” I called after her. “A feather pillow without a transponder. You’ve got it!”
I was in the kitchen, toasting bagels and cutting grapefruit for breakfast, when the morning call of “Patty!” came from the living room. It was time for Mom’s cup of coffee.
Thirty seconds later, as I handed it to her, she said, “Do you remember when I told you that I didn’t dream anymore?”
“Yes, I remember. And I told you that you did, you just didn’t remember your dreams,” I answered.
“Whatever. I was going to say, it’s a good thing I don’t.”
“Oh? And why’s that?” I asked.
“Because people who act out their dreams will probably get dementia.”
“Act out? What do you mean by ‘act out’? Is that like Charades or something?”
“Yes. No. You know. Like talking and eating when you’re asleep. Stuff like that,” she explained.
“You mean sleep walking?”
“That too. And sleep running and moving around.”
“So, who’s the expert that says this is connected to dementia?” I asked.
“The Today show,” she said. “It’s from a study somebody did.”
“Must be the same people who researched shrimp on a treadmill,” I muttered, turning to go. “Just another stupid study.”
“I don’t think this one’s stupid. It’s a real study,” she said emphatically.
“I guess, since it’s a real study, it must be true,” I commented drily as the toaster oven dinged that the bagels were ready.
“That’s what I thought. So, see, it’s a good thing I don’t dream anymore,” she said happily.
“Yup, that’ll guarantee the only people going crazy around here are me and Bill,” I whispered to the grapefruit. And I’m pretty sure it agreed with me.
Mom had a complete mental health evaluation. It took 3 hours and was conducted by giving her a series of tests to check her memory, her awareness and her comprehension levels. A week later we all went back to meet with a psychologist to go over the results. It took a quarter of an hour for the doctor to explain the different types of tests, what they were meant to reveal, and her scores, before he summarized the findings in a single statement.
“For someone your mother’s age,” he said, leaning over and patting her on the hand, “she’s just fine.”
“Really?” I asked, with more than a hint of incredulity in my voice. “She fine? Her memory is fine and she’s pretty much normal?”
“In a nutshell, yes, there are no signs of any abnormal loss of mental function,” he replied patiently. “She has some short term and immediate term memory loss, but that’s related to her age, not illness, and its well within the normal range.”
“Immediate memory?” Bill asked. “Like if I’m talking to her and she doesn’t remember the conversation? Like that?”
“Yes. She may not always focus on something that’s happening at the moment,” the shrink answered.
“So basically, if she’s not interested in what you’re saying, she’ll pretty much tune you out?” he pressed.
“I suppose that’s how it would appear, but actually, for a woman her age…”
“So I’m not too bad for someone who’s 88,” Mom piped in, perking up for the first time in 20 minutes.
“You’re 87, Mom,” I replied.
“Well, I’m almost 88,” she countered.
“Your birthday was last month,” I said. “I think you’re closer to 87 than 88.”
“Maybe, but at least I’m not ready for the loopy bin yet,” she said with a grin.
“Yup, she’s just fine,” I responded to the surprised expression on the psychologist’s face.