Thursday, February 16, 2006

What My Mother Believes (2001)

First published on the Internet, 4th April, 2001

I don't know how long our family has been living with senility. It isn't something which is immediately visible overnight, like a head cold. In 1989-90, my mother suffered a stroke. Since then, she's deteriorated mentally bit by bit until today, in early 2001, we live an extraordinary life. I use the term "extraordinary" because many people in our position don't have the opportunity of being able to care for their relatives at home, instead opting for nursing homes or other institutions. Maureen has been well enough to stay with us, for the most part, but tough choices are still ahead of the family... In the meantime, here is a little bit about her (and my) average day.

'What my Mother Believes'
  • Mascara is lipstick.
  • Mascara is for eyebrows.
  • Mascara brushes are toothbrushes.
  • Talcum powder is face powder.
  • Polka dot blouses go with tartan skirts.
  • New clothes belong to other people who gave them to her to mind.
  • She cooks.
  • Food can't be left in the freezer in case it's needed immediately.
  • Lunch should be cooked at 9:30 a.m.
  • My father eats out every day.
  • My father's friend, Peter, has all his meals here.
  • My father goes to town on Saturdays.
  • Every half-empty milk carton contains sour milk.
  • Hot, used teabags might set the bin on fire.
  • Live television programmes are programmes she saw last week.
  • The volume of the television should be so low as to be inaudible.
  • Every barking dog is in our garden.
  • All cars passing by on the street are visiting us.
  • All white vans are ice cream vans.
  • Every bump or noise is a knock at the door.
  • All male callers wearing suits are doctors.
  • The cat she just put out the back door won't reappear at the front door in five minutes time.
  • A cat making any kind of movement requires feeding.
  • The cat's dish should be covered in case it offends people.
  • Mysteriously, the cat seldom eats all of its food.
  • The cat will tear her nylons with its claws as it walks by.
  • She's forbidden to throw out used tissues or empty bottles, boxes, bags, or containers.
  • She's forbidden to use the last of the toilet paper, nor the beginning of a new roll.
  • She's under strict instructions to keep the coal bucket full at all times.
  • She's under strict instructions not to stoke the fire.
  • She's under strict instructions, but she's forgotten what they were.
  • The date on any old newspaper is today's date.
  • Every evening, we have no bread for the following morning.
  • I'll be shopping tomorrow but I'll go without money.
  • Tomorrow is a special holiday and she'll be alone to make do with nothing in the house to eat.
  • Her daughter is coming to visit today or tomorrow, she can't remember which.
  • On Wednesdays, I'm her daughter.
  • The neighbours have x-ray devices so you have to undress or use the bathroom in the dark.
  • She's tired of being a housewife and of being over seventy.

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