“Honey, my eye won’t open again. I think there may be blood behind it. I’m pretty sure I should go see the doctor about it before the office closes.”
Sitting in the parking lot at Laguna Beach, I check my watch and sigh into the cell phone. I have to pick up a Boy Scout from a merit badge meeting in forty minutes. This is my only tiny chance at a much-needed walk on the boardwalk this week.
“Mom, is there blood leaking out of your eye when you look in the mirror?”
“No, of course not. But there’s probably blood in my eyeball. You know how people can get problems there and go blind, like what was his name? Vernon?” Her aged brain is a popcorn popper randomly popping out burnt kernels, each one bopping her on the head to say the sky is falling—right now.
“Blood? Are you having trouble seeing?”
“No. But I have floaters.”
“Mom, I told you yesterday and the day before that it’s very dry during Santa Ana winds. Your eye is just dry. It’s sticking because it’s dry.”
“Yes, it’s sticking.”
I look at the beige dashboard of the minivan. Will I ever get out of this car and see the ocean? “And you have eye drops. Remember? The doctor prescribed them for you. I think you’re supposed to use them four times a day. Right? Are you using your eye drops?”
“Well, no. But there’s this other thing. You know how I rub my eyebrow all the time?”
“Well, I do, and it’s nearly bald there.”
“Funny, I never noticed.”
“Well, the girls here and I have been reading Reader’s Digest, and we agree that when my eye is doing this and you know how much I rub this place, you can tell there’s something bad wrong in there. I think it’s brain cancer.”
“Mom. How many Vicodin did you take this afternoon?”
“I’m serious. I need to tell my doctor about this today. I’m really sick.”
“Mom, since you moved here three months ago, you’ve seen two doctors a week for every ailment under the sun. You’ve never mentioned this before. And I hate to tell you this, but you’re not dying. You do have serious back pain. And you’re on drugs for it.”
“Yes. All those years you labeled everyone who acted the least bit funny as on drugs. Well, now it’s you that’s doped up.” I hope. Either that or she’s gone around the bend and we’ll be back in the doctor’s office for Alzheimer’s testing. Again.
“I don’t agree with you on this. And I have to say I’m just not feeling very loved right now.”
Of course. Feeling loved requires that I take her to at least two doctors a week, and they must be old doctors with perfect bedside manner and lots of framed diplomas on the walls and scrupulously clean offices. They also must agree with her need for a change in her meds or give her a new protocol, which she will then stop using without consulting anyone at any moment for any reason. As soon as she hears old lady gossip or reads an article about how terribly dangerous the rarest side effects can be for a drug or an ointment, she drops it, even if it’s critical, like her heart medicine.
“Just use your eye drops, then go to dinner and meet a few of the other residents there.”
“Well, I do not agree with you on this. And when I die, I want an autopsy because I want to find out what’s really wrong with me.”
2013 note: Mom is still alive and well at age 93. No eye bleeds, no cancer. The odd thing is that a year after this, I did have a bleed behind my eye, a cavernous carotid fistula, that could have made me blind or killed me. Turns out, Mom was being weirdly psychic, not about herself, but about me.