Playing With Matches

“How did you find me?” Mom was surprised and pleased that I’d arrived. It was the Friday before Hurricane Irene, and I wanted to see her before we got hit. No telling when I’d be able to get back there for another visit and I wanted to check on the storm plans at the facility.

“I always know where you are, Ma. Julia Roberts keeps me informed. Did you go somewhere?”

“Yeah, we were down at my old place the last couple of days.”


“No, Florida.”

Hmm. She went on to explain how she and several of the residents had been taken to a hotel in her old town in Florida and she was very impressed with the arrangements. Everything was smooth. And now she was here. Wherever “here” is.

She had a lovely hair do. I had asked that her hair be cut and styled at the next visit from the stylist, and Mom was freshly coiffed. She was feeling pretty well except for her big toes. That meant her gout was flaring up and of course, she told no one but me. I went to speak with the nurse on duty and asked her to please make sure Mom got her anti-inflammatory. I reviewed Mom’s drug list with her and located the right prescription. I also filled her in on the dosing schedule; “as needed” doesn’t exactly cut it.

I returned to sit with Mom and another resident’s child came in. Ah, the daughter of Mom’s arch-nemesis, Janie*. This is the woman with whom Mom came to blows her first week at Potomac. She’s a lot further gone than Mom, and has no boundaries. She takes things that don’t belong to her and Mom says she steals from her room. Recently, a new fellow came to live at the home and he and Janie are a couple. They sit together and hold hands. Janie also likes to carry a baby doll around.

There’s another female resident who is barely verbal. She attached herself to another new male resident and Mom gave me some of the gory details of their liaisons. Eww, Mom, please, too much information. She grinned and welcomed me to her world. Sorry, Mom. But I’ve got to say that fellow had a great big grin on his face. Lord knows how he’s processing the receipt of such pleasure, but he doesn’t seem to be suffering.

I put on a movie for the folks; “Some Like It Hot.” Mom was surprised that it was black and white. I kissed her good bye and left her marveling at how gorgeous Tony Curtis had been.

Out in the parking lot, Janie’s daughter was leaving, too. I introduced myself and we traded back-stories on our mothers and concerns about the coming storm. Janie had also been thrown out of her last home for violent behavior and acting out. We laughed as I indicated that I was pretty sure that our mothers had engaged in some “rock ’em sock ’em” action with each other.

Janie’s daughter also told me something interesting about the new-found relationship. Her mother thinks the new beau is her dead husband, and that’s pretty much what you’d expect. However, the gentleman in question thinks her mother is his brother. He refers to her as “he” and is very protective of “him.” It’s fascinating how delusional folks find each other and satisfy their basic need for human contact with someone who fleshes out the phantoms in their heads, lending reality to their fantasies.

Just as Mom thought Alan* was Herby at first, she believed a variety of different people she encountered in her adventures had some kind of relationship with her, regardless of their actual gender or disposition. I’m starting to think that old Stephen Stills song “Love The One You’re With” has some implications beyond the free-love anthem it was surely meant to be.

If you can’t be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you’re with

Here’s hoping that wherever you are, you’re safe, dry and feeling gratitude for the life you have. And if you’re not, may you find what you need in whatever or whoever comes your way next.

*Not their real names


About traceysl

Digital Artist, creative technologist, problem-solving lover of life. Having cared for my mother, who died on April 14, 2015 after a long fight with dementia, I have refocused professionally to helping others through my experience. I have started a company called Grand Family Planning to provide unique Family Support Services. In this way, I share my knowledge and give meaning to the tragic turn of my parents' journey through the misery of dementia.
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