Saturday, February 02, 2008

Glass Soldiers

So the phone rings at 6 am, and Jon says, "This isn't good", because there are blizzards in the state and Dinah's at Lake Tahoe. We went out last night so I'm not at Lake Balboa already.

It's my mother. She's in a tizzy, and thinks she's called my brother Cricket. Jon hands me the phone and Mom's hung up. I run to my desk to call her back.

She tells me she's really worried about my brother. Why, Mom? What's wrong?
I think he's gone to South America and I'm really worried.
I say no Mom, he's going to Africa but he hasn't left yet. (Which is potentially much more of a worry, considering the situation in Kenya.) We try to line that information up.

Then she gets on the real issue. Someone's lined up all my liquor bottles like soldiers. It's either Cricket or the cleaning woman. I always have them on the shelf in twos and now they're stiff against the wall like soldiers and there's not much in them.

(Not this again) I remind her that liquor evaporates. The liquor she has is from last millenium and she's never been good at screwing on tops. My brother had gone to see her mid January when she had a similar panic attack. He told me he cleaned the refrigerator, straightened the liquor bottles and threw out a lot of odd food items found in unexpected places. Her eyesight isn't good anymore, and she forgets a lot. And these liquor bottles seem to be a jag in her brain.

She goes back to worrying about the liquor bottle soldiers, how strange they looked. And why he had to line them up like that. She's laughing now, but still upset. I urge her to get over it, that there's really nothing wrong. If the cleaning lady were actually slugging the booze down, other fussy residents would have noticed the drunken cleaning lady. And too many weird accusations will lead to losing the apartment and getting moved upstairs.

Back in the 70's my mother conducted estate sales after my father died-- she knew a great deal about antiques. The estate sales happened when someone died, or moved to Florida, or-- I'd forgotten the third possibility: the big crack-up. One sale I remember was at a large country house near Bernardsville, NJ. There were lots of books in the den on ufos and psychic living, and the railing of the staircase leading to the den was a piano keyboard, which was lovely and odd. I don't think it played music though.

But I remember hearing the reason the house was for sale was the lady had lost her marbles. She liked to call the police out on false alarms, and when they'd arrive they'd see messages painted in big letters on the walls like: "Officer Robinson is a Fat Pig".


Linda said...

This post is packed to bursting with great stuff. Way too much to comment on––I'm going to have to come back later. But my biggest reaction is abject terror that I'm going to lose my marbles in the near future if all my liquor bottles aren't lined up perfectly on the proper x and y coordinates.

sal said...

My father went through a phase where he was obsessed about whether the pictures on the wall were level. He would wheel his chair around the house to get the yardstick to measure to prove to us that they were crooked. He also became obsessed with clearing everything off the table: every crumb or piece of paper. Sometimes he would strip the sheets off the bed for the same reason. Most of our efforts went toward helping him to calm down and feel safe.

I am so sorry you are getting calls like this. It was a real tension reliever if my brothers and I could laugh about these things together later.

Namowal said...

You-know-who has problems too. Sometimes she's sweet (and sharp as a tack), then she'll be deeply hurt by some (imagined) offense and then it's hours of curt answers, morbid "I wish I were dead" comments and so on.
She sometimes won't take her medication- I've seen her hiding it. Partially because she doesn't like the side effects (understandable) but partly because she doesn't understand why she needs them. I've tried to explain she needs her heart medicine to keep it beating properly, so clots don't form (which can end up in the brain and cause another stroke) but she answers "I had a stroke, not a heart attack. Why am I taking heart medicine!?"
As sal said, I'm sorry you're getting these calls. It's tough to reason with someone being unreasonable. Double tough when it's someone you remember them as they used to be.

Sally said...

Thanks all. This little blog contains a room full of experience.

I called today and she'd gotten over the bottles. My brother had been to see her. She didn't quite seem herself though.

It IS tough trying to reason with the unreasonable. I tried taking the tack of "that's a neurosis, that's not real," then realized that was futile and counter-productive. I'm going to see her in about two weeks.