Arriving at the condo, I take the elevator up to the fourth floor. Hunched over, I walk towards the door, put the key in, and open it. Once again, I expect Mom to greet me and a wave of sadness envelops me. My breath is uneven and my heart beats rapidly as I walk into the living room. I make my way over to the sofa and am cognizant of the fact I have to sell what’s left of Mom’s furniture, or throw it out. I have no more room at my place and Stephen has taken everything he can for his new apartment. I sit down on the sofa and rub my hand on the surface of the material. I smile when I think of how much Mom loved her furniture and reflect on the many memories attached to this piece. This was the special sofa placed in our living room over the years. Visiting family and friends sat comfortably on the couch telling stories, jokes and laughing way into the early morning. Alcoholic drinks and ashtrays with cigarette butts covered the coffee table. As a child in my pajama’s I’d sit mesmerized listening to each and every word. I’d always fall asleep on the floor in the living room, but find myself waking up in the morning in my own bed. I never knew how I got there; it was a complete mystery to me. Through the years the sofa has been recovered a couple of times because Mom never found another one, “as well made as this one,” she’d remark. The current colours and texture reflect Mom’s taste. A cream background surrounded by a floral print of pale pink, blue and purple. I wish I could take it, but it’s not really my style (too flowery for me), plus I know it would be ruined within months of living at my place. Mom had a knack of taking extra care of her possessions, which is a trait I did not inherit.
My head is cloudy and my mind is tangled like a bunch of necklaces in a jewellery box. I keep thinking, is there a way I can keep Mom’s condo? I answer out loud, “Damn, there is no way”. I stare in a daze at the floor and know that there is barely enough money in her savings account to pay for her monthly care as it is right now. I know if she were sixty-five years old and receiving old age pension things would be different, but she’s only sixty-four; two thousand two hundred dollars a month is a lot of money to pay at the facility, add in medications, hairdressing, and cable TV and we are in the red if we try to keep Mom’s place. On top of all that, I have no job and no income. Then I realize, whom am I kidding anyway? It’s not like she will ever come back here. A long-term care facility? That’s a joke. It really should be renamed, end-of-life facility. It’s not like any of the residents will ever leave the place, unless they go into a hospital to die. Her disease is terminal and I’m having such a hard time wrapping my head around that fact. Everything I read about the disease points to the fact that she’s never going to get better; in fact, she will continue to deteriorate mentally and physically over the next few years. Alzheimer’s will take over her entire being and I sense it will take over mine in the process. I remember a quote I read years ago that declared, “If we fear the unknown then we surely fear ourselves” (Bryant H. McGill). I think I may be frightened of how and if, I can handle this pilgrimage. In fact, I’m afraid of the present day and more so, the future. My phone rings and it’s the realtor. Time to get on with business. I have no choice. Mom’s condo will be sold and I’ll have one less thing to worry about. The money from the sale will be set-aside in her name for her care. I take one last look around her home and hope that whoever buys it, takes care of it and enjoys it. I’m beginning to realize that time is precious and to bask in the now as one never knows what’s around the corner or over the hill.
Later in the evening Mark and I cuddle on the couch watching TV. The security of having a person love me unconditionally comforts me. I allow myself to escape and fall into his arms and just be, if only for a short time. I wish I can stay here forever, but I’m brought back to reality when the phone rings. I jump up. The first thing that comes to mind is; please don’t let it be an issue with Mom, immediately the next thing that comes to mind is, Baba. I run both scenarios through my head, praying the call has nothing to do with either, as it continues to ring. I hesitantly answer. I look over at Mark as I listen to the stranger at the other end of the line. I apologize. I cry. I say, “Thank you so very much.” I tell the stranger Mom has early on-set Alzheimer’s and is now living in long-term care facility. More tears from the both of us at different ends of the phone line. We say our goodbyes and I gradually hang up the phone. Mark looks at me and asks,
“What was that all about?”
I run to grab tissues and ask him to give me a minute. I sit back down on the couch and begin to tell him the story.
“It seems like for the past few months Mom had been calling a complete stranger thinking she was calling me.” Tears fall down my cheeks.
“What? Baby, what do you mean; calling a stranger?” Mark asks.
It’s hard for me to repeat and process everything that I just heard on the opposite end of the phone line, but I try anyway,
“She told me that Mom called at least once a week. She talked to this lady or her daughter as if she were talking to me. The lady tried her best to convince Mom she had the wrong number, but it didn’t seem to register with Mom.”
Mark is silent. I’m sure I’m not making any sense, but I continue,
“Eventually, over time, her daughter and herself went along with Mom because Mom didn’t seem to understand the person on the other end of the phone wasn’t me. She added that Mom seemed sweet and kind. Neither she nor her daughter wanted to upset Mom.”
“But, I’m not getting this. How did she know how to reach you, then?” Mark asks.
“I guess some old fashion detective work. The last time Mom called, she dialed *69 in order to get the phone number. The next time Mom called she asked Mom’s name and Mom answered; Anne Macpherson. She then looked in the phone book for any other Macpherson and found me. She said she had no idea if I was related to Mom, but thought she’d give it a try.”
“But why did she wait so long to call you?” Mark asks.
“I have no idea, I never asked.” I reply embarrassed. Why the hell didn’t I ask more questions? Why didn’t I get this lovely lady’s name?
Mark reaches out and we embrace. I cry on his shoulder. Through my sobs I say,
“She…she said she was worried she hadn’t heard from Mom in awhile.”
Oh my god. My heart is breaking for Mom. How could Mom not know that she wasn’t talking to me? Why didn’t I spend more time with her? Why?
Through all the crying, I question; what else was I unaware of? What if she called other people by mistake, thinking she was calling me? What kind of daughter am I, not to have known any of this? Once again, my feelings that I am the worst daughter in the world resurface. I need to escape and sleep.
I hate the night. When I was a child suffering from the flu, I remember Mom saying,
“The nights are always the worst, our temperatures go up, we become restless and unsettled. Sometimes there is no peaceful sleep in bed.”
During these ill times for me, Mom used to place an empty basket next to my bed to use if I felt sick to my stomach. Before long, she would settle in and curl up beside me in the twin size bed, holding a cold compress on my forehead while caressing my face. We’d snuggle together until I fell asleep. I felt safe and secure, and usually within a short amount of time, I’d be in a deep slumber.
There is no deep sleep for me now. I toss and turn. I can’t turn conversations off; I can’t stop the fears, and I have no answers to my many questions. I wish there was a switch I could turn off to tune out the voices, but there isn’t. I’ve tried drinking beer (many bottles) thinking it will help me pass out and sleep, but it never works. My brain does not stop. Somehow I think that my stomach may be attached to my brain because it never relaxes and it feels like a fisherman’s knot; tied up and rigid. Those few times when sleep does come (usually in the afternoon), I don’t want to wake up, because when I do wake, it means I’m thrown back into the reality of Mom’s disease, Baba’s aging, no job and everything else that is happening in my life at the moment. There are no dreams just nightmares. I hate the night.