Archive for October, 2010

Voices in the Corner


My mother, Dorie, was several years into dementia when she spent her final 11 days, first, at Forsyth Medical Center and, then, at the Kate B. Reynolds Hospice Home.

For much of her time at Forsyth and Kate B. Reynolds, Dorie’s eyes were closed. At times, it looked as if a lot was going on inside her head. We didn’t know whether she was dreaming or what.

Dorie no longer remembered her friends and didn’t always recognize her children, and, when her eyes were open, she showed no sign of recognizing me.

When my Uncle Harry showed up and spoke to her, though, she opened her eyes, smiled at him, sat right up and greeted him warmly. She was clearly happy to see him, and, although she didn’t speak to him by name, it appeared that she recognized him.

Hoping to ride that wave, I spoke to her as well. By then, though, she was gone again. Over the next couple of days, she enthusiastically greeted and appeared to recognize other people who came to visit. Each time, I tried in vain to slip in on that moment of recognition. It happened enough that my brother and I started joking about it.

As Dorie was about to leave Forsyth and go to Kate B. Reynolds, a nurse from Hospice who had been setting up things dropped by the room. As we chatted, I mentioned my efforts to slip through the door of recognition opened by others.

That reminded her of a story from early in her career. There was a man, she said, who could be understood only by his wife. To everyone else, what he said sounded like gibberish.

One day, she happened to be alone with him in at his house. Looking toward a corner of the room where the walls met the ceiling, the man appeared to be having an animated conversation with some invisible beings. Just to say something and not expecting a coherent reply, she said to him, “What are they saying?”

To her amazement, he turned to her and, speaking quite clearly, said, “They’re telling me what to expect.”

Keenly interested in whatever invisible beings might have to say about what to expect, she said, “What do they have to say?”

His answer was unintelligible to her.

He turned back the corner and continued his conversation with the beings. A little later, he turned back to her and, again speaking quite distinctly, said, “I have a message for you and your husband.”

She had no husband, and, if one was on the way, that was welcome news. Plus, she certainly wanted to hear whatever personal message the beings might have.

When she asked the man what they had to say, his response was gibberish.

Ah, well.

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