A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?
-- Albert Einstein
Many years ago, when my mama was in a nursing facility back in my hometown, I would call her each day and go visit every couple or three weeks. Multiple strokes rendered her physically and behaviorally different than her former self, but that former self peeked through with enough regularity that I really never knew which person I'd be visiting on any given day.
She couldn't walk or stand unaided, but she would twist, turn and "dance" in her chair in perfect time to music. Her short-term memory was gone, but she'd belt the lyrics to every Patsy Cline song.
She forgot how to hold a telephone, often putting the mouthpiece to her ear or letting the receiver drop into her lap -- at which point she shouted at me for mumbling so low "no one on God's green earth could hear." She tried to grab candy or gum like a child as I pushed her wheelchair through the checkout line. She couldn't hold the phone, but she could put a death grip on an Almond Joy.
There were days she'd tell me about the lunch she just had with the Fritzie girls. I knew good and well she had neither left the facility for lunch nor seen the Fritzie girls since the mid-1950s. Still, I nodded and told her to send them my regards.
One summer, she stopped eating meat in the dining hall because she was convinced the nursing staff was slaughtering dogs behind the kitchen and then serving the meat for dinner and transplanting the organs into the residents at night. One man wanted to be a Labrador retriever, she told me, and she wanted no part of any transformation. It was hard to know where to start dissecting -- no pun intended -- that confounded situation. I was saddened yet somewhat impressed with Mama's new-found channeling of Stephen King. She remained vegan for the better part of a month until the smell of cheeseburgers got the best of her.
During a call one afternoon, she giggled to the point I could no longer understand a word she said, as though she was some happy drunk inhaling helium. A pig was pulling a cart outside her window, she said, and she sure wished I was there to see it.
The way I felt in those times with Mama is the way I feel now. Each day, I awake to a new level of nuts, where pandemics and storming castles are commonplace in a dystopian episode of "The Twilight Zone." Thing is, if you feel the whole world's gone bat-guano crazy, how do you know it isn't you? How do you know that pig ain't real?
Next thing you'll tell me is Alex Trebek no longer hosts "Jeopardy!" and the Pentagon has to tell us all it knows about UFOs.
Please. That's just crazy.
Lisa Kelley-Gibbs is a Southern storyteller, lawyer and country gal living a simple urban life in downtown Bentonville. Email her at [email protected]