Monday, November 20, 2006

Rough Ride

Bea chats away, 50 miles an hour, for most of the night.

When I say hello in the morning, she asks without preamble,“Have you seen either of them?”

In my mind, I recall the nursing-home tray with its little paper cups used for distribution of meds, a method of behavior control that must make many elderly people start considering death as an option. The nurse's aide smiles as she administers the daily dose ...

“Who?”

“Your father and my father.”

“They were hanging out together?”

“Yup. They’re both dead, aren’t they?”

“They are.”

If I had drugged Bea, she would not be sharing thoughts this way. I wonder what she is going to say next?

“I’m so cold! I spent the whole night on a big stone mausoleum ... Do you mind if I call you Ruth? It’s one of my favorite names ... There’s a slice of banana, up on the rafter. What would be nice is some chocolate pudding …”

I can tell from the way the talk stops and starts, like an old jalopy, sputtering without gas, that she has slowed down now. Still we jerk along until a disconcerting remark shatters the illusion of a return to our past, when my mother always made sense.

“Do you have any more little playmates for me?

“Playmates?”

“Somebody to talk to.”

“Oh, you mean the ladies who have been coming in, like Lisa and Virginia?”

“Yes, playmates. Because I’m a little girl now ...”

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