Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Talking Marathon

When Bea’s mind is clear, I am surprised by its acuity. This morning, at 6, while I am giving her meds, she comments, “There aren’t as many as usual.”

I look down and realize I have forgotten a pill.

Bea will talk all day long. I immediately recognize the signs. A purposeful look in the eyes, the desire to get out of bed. And, yes, volubility.

I hear her mention college roommate Miggits White several times. Apparently Bea has been planning a party. As I move her into a sitting position for breakfast, she looks up at me, as if expecting help with the organization: “Couldn’t we invite Margaret?”

Bea is convinced she can still entertain. This is not denial. It is advanced senility.

When most people get this old, they die.

Feeling exasperated that she has reached the end of her life and does not seem able to accept this reality, I exclaim. “Miggits is probably in the same state you are, unable to travel, confined to bed. For all I know, she might even be dead.”*

I do not intend to be mean or hurtful. I lack sleep.

“No, she’s not,” Bea says in a very matter-of-fact voice, not in the least bit distressed by my response. “She had a new dress on today.”

An irrational statement from a woman who noticed I was not giving her all her meds just a few minutes earlier.

Bea is alert enough to listen to love poetry and Shakespeare’s sonnets. No naps. Not a one.

Later I leave Sven in front of the evening news and go in to check on Bea who has stopped talking. She points a boney finger toward a corner of the ceiling, opens her eyes wide and says, “Your father is there.”

“Why don’t you talk to him?” I suggest.

“I try but he doesn’t answer. Do you ever talk to him?”

“I pray for his soul every night.”

Bea seems to like this idea.

"Could you tell those men in the living room to shut up?"

And so we bounce back and forth from hallucination to reality all day long, weaving in and out. The trip is exhausting.

When I go to sleep at 11, I can still hear Bea from my upstairs bedroom, chattering away.

* In the Vassar Quarterly, received June 9, I learn that Margaret White Campbell passed away January 13.

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