Friday, June 23, 2006

The Mink Coat

Bea’s cough seems better. She sleeps again all day. Her hysteria at being unable to breathe reminds me of an incident that occurred while at Pleasant Bay three months ago…

When I arrived late in the afternoon to feed her supper, Bea grasped my hand and pulled me in close. “Thank God you’re here!” she cried. I read absolute panic in her eyes. Her whole body was shaking. “They have stolen my fur coat. It was right there in the closet. My marvelous mink. And now it’s gone. Gone! One of them must have stolen it! Oh, I should have known. What am I to do? Help me, please! We have to find it ...” (etc.)

Bea had put herself into quite a state and must have been playing drama-queen for at least an hour. Eyes lowered, the health aides circumnavigated the bed as if it contained a lunatic with leprosy. I could tell each and every one felt Bea’s tirade was directed at her personally. The thing is, the ratty old mink was safe at home. Never would I have brought it with us. I relayed this information to everyone in the room. “She really does care about that mink coat!” I added in as apologetic a tone as I could muster whenever a new nurse or health aide appeared. I wanted them to continue taking good care of her. "She won it in a contest."

This statement was true. Bea had entered a Sealtest milk contest in Washington, DC, back in the fifties, when milk was still delivered to the door several times a week. I remember how she would roll up the entry forms and stuff them between empty glass bottles for the milkman to pick up.

Imagine our surprise when Sealtest contacted us to say Bea had won a mink cape. Since she had always dreamed of a mink coat, my dad wrote a check for several hundred dollars and arranged for Sealtest to present Bea with one. My mother wore that mink for many winters. It was her prized possession. No wonder she was obsessing about it!

The next day I triumphantly carried in the coat and draped the heavy fur across her feet. When Bea woke up from her nap, she asked, “What in the world is my mink coat doing here?”

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