Oh, my Grace I got no hidin’ place (2)

The psychiatrist is telling me a whole list of stuff that I’ll be expected to report to all concerned by email afterwards. Something about organic based secondary psychosis. Interesting words – especially as I thought she’d got dementia. Well, she has got dementia. This seems to be on top. What is an organic psychosis? Is it something like carrots grown without fertiliser, or bread made of special brown flour like you get in delicatessens? It’s something to do with her hearing loss and long-term refusal to wear her hearing aids. It’s something like people get in intensive care when they’ve been in there a long time. Solitary confinement would do the same, probably.

We need to get Mother’s ears re-tested, he says. New hearing aids might make all the difference. They need to be tried first.

How are we going to get her out of the house and to the hospital? Hit her over the head with a hefty vase and whisk her away whilst still unconscious? How are we going to keep any new hearing aids in her actual ears when she refuses to wear the ones she’s got, and keeps hiding them? How am I going to explain to her why she needs to wear the new hearing aids without reminding her that I can’t actually hear her chorus of sinister voices? She knows such a lot of blindingly obvious things – about the neighbours, about the people standing in the garden, and those who are coming from Gravesend to syphon off her water supply, about the poison in the tapwater – that I seem to be unaware of. She’s recently consigned me to the Dark Side for failing to agree, categorically, that all this stuff is real. If there’s such a place as Double Dark Side – that’s where I’ll be.

And the aids still won’t be in the ears.

It becomes like that dog in the cartoon. Think bubbles and Blah Blah Blah; one’s own name cropping up at intervals. I want to be at home with the Mogglies. I want right now to have already safely negotiated that scary bit of the A249 where you have to filter into a line thundering lorries at such an acute angle that you have to lean right forward to see in your wing mirror, then jam your foot on the accelerator and shoot out fast, usually to a chorus of horn-honking, and be back at home, picking up thirteen empty cat-dishes and refilling them with Felix, changing their water bowls. They will be getting hungry by now. Thought I’d be back much earlier. I miss them. It’s like thirteen elastic bands – after an hour or so away from them I start needing to get back.

Go home and cuddle a cat, my sister advised earlier in the week, at the conclusion of another multicoloured, stressful meeting, one in which we both took part. How does she happen to know that about me? How could she hit on that very thing, yet not know when she is hurting my feelings or making me angry? What is it about me that’s so rawly transparent to other people one minute, so impenetrably opaque the next?

The same way as Mum remembers (and of course tells the psychiatrist) that when she passes on I have my eye on one of the two miniature landscapes Ex once painted for her and my Dad. It’s perfectly true. I never, ever told her this yet somehow she remembers. You can be sitting there dry-eyed and she says Now I’ve made you cry. And she has – just not on the outside. How does she know things like that and yet not how to eat a piece of currant cake or to change that blasted blue jumper?

What’s that she’s got down it now? Some sort of dark orange sauce. Must be one of the microwave meals the carers have started doing for her now. Before, she only ate yoghurt and Ryvita. Those made less obvious marks.

Is there any way of persuading her to have a wash and change her clothes? I seem to be enquiring, suddenly. The roomful of multicoloured people all stop talking at once and stare at me.

That must have been a Wrong Thing. How was it Wrong this time? Probably they were talking about something else and I interrupted them apropos of nothing, which seems to be my speciality. I would have come in from left field somewhere – wherever I was – with this utter irrelevancy.

It’s just that – I hate her to be dirty, I hear myself saying. My voice is now fading into the wallpaper. They stare at me for yet another, separate moment, then continue with the multicoloured Blah, Blah, Blah from before my interruption. Really, I can’t bear that blue jumper. I imagine how such a filthy old thing would feel against your skin – sticky.

We believe in enablement rather that prescription, the social worker says, noticing I’m getting my Away With The Fairies atmosphere again. I look at her, anxiously. She decides she must be using words that are too long. She thinks for a moment. How to make it simpler for this Primary Carer…

We don’t believe in lecturing old people about changing their clothes, more encouraging them. Gently.

Encouraging? A month’s worth of my gentle encouragement has resulted in what? That same blue jumper. At what point will someone peel that disgusting old woolly item off my mother, throw it in the dustbin, preferably double-bagged in black plastic, encourage her into a warm bath – one with actual soap – and encourage a clean jumper onto her? Is that never going to happen?

I need to focus, but the more I try the less I can. Why won’t people write things down as they speak, or give me space to do so? How must their memories work if they can assimilate and store all this guff in real time? I am in a room full of aliens – all but one. I recognised him straight off. He sits at the back by the mirror on a low, cube-shaped footstool – something my mother would still refer to as a pouffe if she hadn’t lost the word. Watching, not saying much. Every now and then he catches my eye and smiles. What are they like, this lot? He’s saying.

My mother has landed in the conversation again, with the usual giant splash, drowning out all and sundry. I’ve got a very, very dry mouth, she shouts, over and over again, making a noise like trying to peel a giant tongue off the roof of a giant mouth. I hate it when she does that noise: it makes my flesh crawl. Shall we go and make a cup of tea? my lifeline asks her. Come on, let’s go to the kitchen. Show me how you make a cup of tea. And off they go together to the kitchen.

Without the heckling the conversation should be easier to follow, but somehow it isn’t. Now that my one and only piece of floating driftwood is gone, alien waters rise swiftly and cover my head.

  • When darkness fell, excitement kissed the crowd
  • And made them wild
  • In an atmosphere of freaky holiday
  • When the spotlight hit the boy
  • And the crowd began to cheer
  • He flew away
  • Oh, my Grace
  • I got no hidin’ place
  • Oh, my Grace
  • I got no hidin’ place
  • Oh, my Grace
  • I got no hidin’ place
  • Oh, my Grace
  • I got no hidin’ place
  • Oh, my Grace
  • I got no hidin’ place

7 thoughts on “Oh, my Grace I got no hidin’ place (2)

  1. So sorry you’re going through such a painful time. Before my dad got totally non-communicative he explained it from his side. He described it as the opposite to deja vu, all the time. You see all of these things that you SHOULD know, but don’t. You see people who you SHOULD recognize but have no idea who they are. And they’re in your house and they’re touching your things. It’s terrifying.


    1. Thanks, Jim. Sorry you had to go through it too. It’s so difficult to imagine what it must be like for a dementia sufferer, and your Dad’s explanation makes it a little clearer. I do try to imagine, sometimes, but it’s not far enough into the future, and I dread the thought of it. Still, we soldier on, don’t we? One day at a time. Have a good evening, or whichever part of the day it is where you are. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a powerful post! You write so eloquently about the pain of dealing with your mother’s illness, the “help” of her caregivers who don’t seem to be validating your opinions at all, and of the mystifying nature of human communication in general. I’m so, so sorry you are having to deal with this, and really admire your strength. I wish I could say something to make it better…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I had a feeling it was rather too honest, if you know what I mean. I didn’t much like the ‘me’ that came out in that post. But it was the real me, and it helps immensely to write about it, and also to hear back from people.


      1. I know what you mean about being too honest, but I believe that as long as you aren’t attacking others or being cruel (and in my opinion, you weren’t), then I think your real self is always the best you can be. And the best writing, I think, is also the most honest writing.

        Liked by 1 person

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