Week Twenty-Five

A very young Avril with baby Julia

We’ve just come back from our weekend away. I have really missed Mammy and look forward to seeing her later. Seeing others with their mums makes all this seem so much more tragic and makes me feel protective of her.

I couldn’t find her at first. Nor any staff. Then I heard someone saying, ‘Your daughter is here, Avril’. So I retraced my steps and found her lurking in the shadows of a doorway.

“Don’t do that!” she began, but with a bit of a smile, “You’re trying to trick me. I thought you’d gone… But you look different… That’s why, isn’t it? Have you seen him?… Well you should… Yes, I thought you had! Is that why you are here? …Me too! I don’t know what it is. Yes, I saw Dawn there with him… She does! You can tell by her face… So why don’t you ask?…No, it doesn’t look good. Did they send for you?… I’m just waiting. I’m scared!… No, I know there isn’t, but they don’t tell you…”

“Mammy, who are you talking to?” I asked, fascinated by this new dimension and eloquence.

“I wasn’t talking to anyone!… Yes, you were, it was her.” she answered herself.

“Who is ‘she’ Mammy?”

“Daddy! Yes, Daddy.”

“Daddy isn’t a ‘she’.” I said, stupidly.

“No, you’re right… He’s not good… Why, what’s the matter. ..A bit of this and that! He’s grumbling… I know, but he’s not good today.”

We sat down in a quiet place and she continued in her ‘Gollum’ style speech;

“I want to go home… Yes, I’m frightened. ..You have to stay, that’s why they called you… Yes I know, but I want to go home. There! Did you see him?… Daddy…”

A lady walked in and came over to the window next to us. Mum glared at her. The lady said, “Do you mind if I close this?” (Curtains)

“Yes, I do mind. Go away!” said Mammy, beginning to rise aggressively towards the woman.

“She’s only trying to close the curtains, Mammy.” I pleaded whilst trying to hold her down. “It’s a good idea, because it’s dark outside now.”

“No, she’s not! They do that, if they can get away with it. And then it’s gone… You know it’s them. There are some horrible people and they take them. I know you don’t believe me. You have to watch them…”

At this moment a man came in, noisily dragging a chair.

“Oy, stop that! Get out!” Mum shouted.

Fortunately this man’s relatives helped him with the chair and Mum grumbled on about how it was him, them, all those others…

“Why do they do that?… Maybe I got it wrong. They will think I’m a loony!… Did you get it?… You did? It came?… And what did it say?… He’s clear? Oh, thank God! Oh, that’s great…” She turned to me again with a look of sheer relief and joy.

“So it came? He’s clear?” I asked, trying to muscle in on this conversation.

“What do you mean?… Oh, I’ve forgotten now.” She added, clearly distracted by my interruption.

“Who are you talking to, Mammy?”

“A man.”

“A man?”

“Don’t say it like that!”

“Sorry Mammy, but I can’t see the man. Who is he?”

“Can I go home now?… No?… Why not?… Do I have to?… I’m scared… He’s all right! I want to go home… Can’t I? What did they say?… Was she there?…”

I became aware of the bell ringing indicating that visiting time was over. I kissed her and said, “I’m going to find a nurse now.”

I got the key and sorted her laundry. Boy, how it ponged! I looked over to her still chuntering, so I left without interrupting her again. Every day is such a different experience. Today she seemed to be two distinctly different people talking to each other and quite unaware of my presence for most of it. One really flew over the cuckoo’s nest in here today.

Chapter 15

My visit to Mum started well today with a big smile, hugs and tears. The nurses said that it was her first smile all day. Apparently she had only consumed one small glass of squash and two biscuits all day, so I got another drink for her and we sat down in the empty dining room. I had spoken yesterday to Debbie and Mum’s friend Wendy, and I told Mum all about it. She was responsive and drank her juice, so I ordered a second one.

“We were coming to see you today,” Mum began, “but we were busy chasing the boys around and doing this and that…Daddy was…but we wanted to come…How are the boys?”

I explained that Josh was in London to see the new Batman movie and that Conor was at home having a saxophone lesson. A few sentences later, she asked after the boys again and I repeated my story.

“No,” she argued, “she’s here!”

“Sorry, I meant that JOSH is in London.”

“No, she’s there!” she emphasised, pointing to a blank wall.

Clearly she was hallucinating and was beginning to get cross with me. Then she was distracted by ‘someone’ under the table. Looking down, she smiled sarcastically and began remonstrating,

“What are you doing there? You should be in bed! Go on. Back to bed now!”

“Who was that?” I asked stupidly.

“Dawn! You know what she’s like!”

Then she addressed me, “Well, what are you waiting for?… Who are you?” A black cloud had come over her again. She hung her head and asked, “Do you want something?”

I said I wanted nothing. That I’d just come to say Hello…

“I said ‘who are you?’ she repeated with agitation.

“I’m Dawn, Mammy.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Who am I then?” I challenged, becoming impatient.

“You ask me? You look like him, but…”

“I’m your daughter, like it or not!” I said, getting up. “I’ve got some laundry to do now.”

I did the laundry, found her again and kissed her goodbye. I’m too tired for this today.


Mum’s friend, Wendy had apparently gone to see Mum on Friday afternoon, but Mum hadn’t acknowledged her, so she didn’t stay long. Julia and her daughter went on Sunday and had a similar experience.

I took Conor with me to see Mum today – our last daytime trip before the Autumn term starts. I start my teaching job tomorrow. We are all a bit apprehensive, especially Conor and I – new schools and unknown challenges ahead.

It’s also the end of Mum’s 28 day section tomorrow and I’ve heard nothing about the hospital’s intentions or plans for her.

We took fresh doughnuts with us, hoping to tempt Mum into eating something. It’s good that she is losing some weight, but she does need to eat and drink something. As we arrived, a nurse was reassuring a very distressed Mum. She saw Conor and I and rushed over with tears and grabbed me for a big hug. Conor joined in too and Mum seemed so relieved and happy.

Then the nurse said, “See, Dawn did come!” and Mum stiffened up.

Then Conor added, “It’s nice to see you, Grandma!” (Why he called her ‘Grandma’ and not ‘Nana’, we don’t know)

Mum panicked and pulled herself away from us, stammering, “No. No, you’re not…Go away! You’re lying…No!”

We got nothing else from her. She wouldn’t eat the doughnut, wouldn’t speak to either of us…she had such a look of hatred towards us. Conor was upset again and Mum marched up and down the corridor chuntering to herself and growling whenever she passed us.

A nurse said that Mum had had no medication, food or drinks for 2 days again. Her mouth was dry. The nurse was concerned and said that obviously they wouldn’t be sending Mum out like this. They would need to see her condition stabilised. She said that they wouldn’t give the Lorazepam because Mum was not being ‘physically aggressive’. I argued that she was being verbally aggressive and was pushing everyone away. More importantly, she was in danger of self-harm by not drinking anything and surely they must be able to do something, or she would die. The nurse answered that they would address all this at the review tomorrow. Dawn, you are not a nurse!


Well, I am back at work, doing a job-share in a Year 1 class. On my second day, yesterday, I had a missed call from the Social Worker to say that at Mum’s review they had decided on a ‘Section 3’ for a further 6 months at the hospital.

Today, after an exciting day in my new class, I went again to see Mum.

She is oblivious to what is happening and to where she is, it seems. Mum greeted me with the old smile, hugs and tears of relief, or joy, or whatever it is she feels when she recognises something. Immediately she began to talk – fluently – about Avril and Dawn, about how unfair it was that Dawn always got more…

I don’t know who she was talking to. Suddenly, she ‘became aware’ of someone tugging on her trouser leg and became irritated, saying,

“What are you doing here again?.. Who are you?.. Avril!…” Her thoughts were interrupted by some visitors leaving the ward and she turned suspiciously to me.

“Who’s that?” she enquired.

“I’ve no idea!” I replied, still squatting down on the floor, where her eyes were fixed.

“Yes you do! Who is it?” she demanded.

I fumbled an explanation that they may be relatives of people there and that they were visiting, but suddenly another lady, brandishing a ‘zimmer frame’ towards me, emerged from a door beside Mum, only to attack me with,

“Why did you say that? Why did you say you would…”

I backed away swiftly from the frame and Mum pulled away from me saying,

“Why are you here?” addressed to me.

“I came to see you.” I replied feebly.

“No you didn’t. You don’t know me!” she accused.

I began, stupidly, to argue with her, feeling stressed and fed up with these difficult games. I said frustrated things about her not getting rid of me this time and threatening to tell her everything I knew about her and Daddy. She didn’t want that either and I knew that I was being unhelpful and speaking out of frazzled emotions. I fired some memories of names and places at her deaf ears and walked away to sort her laundry. I was shaking and upset when a kind nurse offered me a cuppa, a listening ear and some words of comfort. I calmed myself and found Mum in the same spot in the corridor on my way back. I kissed the back of her head cowardly and she said,

“You leaving now?… Goodbye!”

“How did you know I was going?” I asked incredulously.

“Go on. Get on with it!” she spat.

“Goodbye Mammy.” I sighed.

I never know what to expect when I visit Mum.

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