Geralyn is convinced I’m going to kill her.
I have to say, I almost enjoy the idea that every Sunday I go from being a vaguely-old-gothy database administrator to a scheming murderess. I always smile at Geralyn, who holds court in the back row of rocking chairs in the day room, along with Nancy, Joyce, and a few of the other more lucid ladies, before I take a seat next to my mother-in-law. Geralyn always smiles back, but invariably – several minutes into my visit – I hear her tell the others that I’m going to kill her.
“That’s the one. She stopped me in the hallway and said she’s going to MURDER ME.”
“HER. The WEIRD one.”
“Oh, I don’t think that’s true. She’s here very often. I think she might be married to that nice fellow there.”
“She’s going to KILL ME. I can’t sit here with her in the room like this.”
“She’s very strange, though. I won’t argue with you there.”
This goes on at full volume, like I’m not sitting mere feet away with my mother-in-law, who’s smiling beatifically and occasionally stroking my hand.
Edith is in her wheelchair, right in front of the television. I like Edith. She’s got a series of wigs that usually wind up askew on her head by mid-afternoon. Edith repeats phrases, words, and short declaratives by way of communication: “BillClintonBillClintonBillClinton.” “You’refullashityou’refullashityou’refullashit.” I think she likes me, too. She’ll sometimes creep up next to me and stare, before making kissing noises. My mother-in-law is gently protective of Edith, patting her on the knee and saying something like, “Oh, you’re the typewriter flibberty jipsum.”
Meanwhile, in the back row, the conversation seems to have turned from my homicidal tendencies to the temperature in the day room.
“It’s cold in here, don’t you think?”
“It IS cold, yes.”
“It’s ridiculous. I’m going to the front desk and complain.”
(A pause, then:)
“Aren’t you COLD?”
“I was always a very cautious driver.”
“She asked if you’re COLD.”
Friends and acquaintances frequently ask me if I’ve seen Still Alice. They’ve seen it, and/or read it, and it was “just devastating.” Have I seen it? I want to say, “I’m in the middle of kind of living Still Alice right now, thanks.” But what I usually say is, “I don’t think I’m ready to watch that.” Both are true; it’s just that the latter response is considerably less snarky, and I’m trying really hard not to be snarky, at least where this is concerned.
There was an article in the Boston Globe recently about the “trend” in theatre right now: the preponderance of plays about dementia. How many of them so accurately depict not only the fear and despair experienced by those who are losing their minds, but the despair and exhaustion of their loved ones. As someone who’s been immersed in theatre since adolescence, I understand the importance of telling these stories onstage. As someone who studied playwriting in graduate school, carefully crafting dialogue in workshops alongside friends who would go on to create amazing work, I feel as though this is something I myself could tackle, eventually, when it’s not so goddamn raw.
The problem is that it would wind up being completely inappropriate, if not downright Ionesco-esque.
“Where is my room? Where are my clothes? “
“She flat out told me that she’s going to kill me in my SLEEP.”
“Can’t you report her to someone?”
“SHE DOESN’T LIVE HERE.”
An aide comes over, to fetch my mother-in-law. It’s time to go into the dining room for a snack.
“Marcia! Marsheeta! Happy Birthday to you…”
“Happy Birthday to you, happy birrrr…no, I’m not going to that place.”