Wednesday, July 03, 2013


They melt away when you try to reach them, my mother says. And perhaps there's not much sinister about them. “I think they were probably just looking for a warm place to stay the night,” she confides to me. Still it's a whole crowd of them, in a house that's supposed to be empty. Well, it's not supposed to be empty. But it's supposed to be empty of strangers, anyway. Her husband is overseas, getting his mother settled in a nursing home. No one knows exactly when he'll be back.

Three children playing on the floor. And a tall, shadowy couple that called her name through the door. She doesn't know who they were.

In the hospital, they think it's the UTI infection. Fair enough. She can catch their conversations, though. And sometimes she can see their emails, scrolling down the whiteboard where the nurses write their names. There are two groups of them, in conflict. Some of them want to kill her, and some don't. Dr Phil comes into it, at this point, and she carefully tics off his list of different sorts of people. There are baiters, and helpers, and traitors, and... she frowns at not being able to complete the list. But anyway, there are no “baiters” in this group. That's her point. She smiles at me, winningly. I smile back, and take her hand.

They won't believe her about the people. It's hard to know who might be in on in and who might not. But there were some of them riding on top of the paramedics' van when they picked her up: how could that be imaginary?

But something happened Sunday night. That's when the whole scam began to come apart. And that explains why some of them were trying to get into the house. They were just looking for a warm place to sleep.

I consider remarking that the evening outside of her air-conditioned house that evening had been a particularly warm, even sweltering, summer night, and decide against it.

A great sadness and weariness comes over me. There is a whole crowd of them waiting for me, too, I suppose. They come at sunset, when the shadows are long, and shapes move on the windows. Every obligation I failed to meet, every lover I disappointed, every deadline I missed. Everyone I ever failed to attend to when they needed me. And now, with the light draining out of the world, it comes to me to make arrangements, to know what to do? It's laughable, a fantastic notion, far more ludicrous than gangsters perched on top of an ambulance. Someone has made a mistake.


Lucy said...

They often seem to be on top of things at such times, I've heard.

This sounds damn hard. Hugs to you, may it resolve soon, and try not to extrapolate too hard to your own harm, it's difficult enough already.

One of my favourite painters, who is also a mental health nurse with dementia patients and a dear old friend, did a painting called 'sundowning', it's at

rbarenblat said...

Oh, dear Dale. Thinking of you; thinking of your mom; sending love and love and love.

mm said...

Ach, it's so hard. When this sort of thing happens the world seems to shift on its axis.

Good thoughts to you and your mother. Take care of yourself.

Sabine said...

Oh this feels so sad and difficult. Stay calm, at least you give the impression that you can. All the very best to you.

Actually, I have recently seen some very heavy dementia-like effects of UTI in an elderly relative which resolved completely and beautifully so once the infection had been treated successfully.

Zhoen said...

She sounds haunted. And who's to say she isn't?

Dale said...

Thanks everyone --

Murr Brewster said...


JMartin said...

Oy oy oy. I'd avoided reading, pretending that you doubtless were spinning a delightful metaphor.


Reality shifts when insanity issues from a person you know and love. We want to twist it into sense, and are overwhelmed by its insidious, seditious effect on our own sanity.

The first question is always: is she functioning in the basic functions of daily life? This heartbreakingly requires that you actually watch her prepare a meal, shop, observe housekeeping and grooming.

Absent VA or long-term care insurance, watch and wait might be your best (albeit tortuous) option if daily function exists.

I assumed the task of obtaining long-term care insurance for a former MIL. Although frontal-lobe free by age 60, she dressed appropriately/fed herself/timely paid her rent and died - without invoking insurance - a full
15 years later.

Oy and hugs.

Dale said...

Thanks so much, dear ones. Everything seems much better, & husband back home... and I'm anticipating a night's sleep.

Jeff said...

A bit late, but I wanted to thank you for writing a beautiful piece about such a difficult subject. This sort of post is why I keep reading blogs.