There is always some amusing situation when I go to see my mother at Haro Park Center.
I know. They are now called Campus of Care Facilities, but it seem to me that title tries too hard.
The other day, Mom was waiting for me out front so she could go out for her cigaret. She greeted me with the wild wide eyes of someone preparing for the Rapture.
“Guess what happened?” she squealed. “I don’t know. What happened?”
“I woke up this morning and I am six inches taller!”
I paused. She totally believed this, so I went along for the ride. “Wow, do your clothes still fit?”’
“I opened my eyes, and….”
By this time, she had moved on to talk to her buddy, an old hippie in her late, late 70s. Daphne still had her beads and her long hair and her tie-dyed shirts from back in the day, but today she was not happy. And as she rolled up to my mother in her wheelchair she was suddenly mean, “you have my money.”
Said my mother, cool and remote - looking very much like Queen Elizabeth II with her tight pewter curls, “I don’t have any money right now, but you will be the first to get some when I get paid.”
Suddenly I’m in an unfamiliar movie. The set is loaded with strange angry people. They are old. Having worked in television, I felt I was having a flashback to my last news show twenty-years ago. It was an ugly flashback.
Daphne jumped on it, “You said you would have it.”
My mother squirmed like she was in her ‘poodle skirt’ denying any culpability for whatever went down. The problem was, I had no idea what went down.
I felt I had to jump in.
“Daphne — mom doesn’t have any money. I take care of that for her.”
“Why don’t you mind your own business?”
“Well, my mother is my business.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” she retorted.
I stared at her wondering what my response could possibly be. Wrestling with seniors at a Campus of Care is decidedly not what I signed up for.
You see, there’s ‘a little nutty’- and we’re forty miles past that - and then there is Stage 5 Delusional - and that’s five miles up the road.
Then Trudy gets in the act, “this is my daughter and she knows everything.” “Well, mom now just a minute here…”
I really felt like Daphne was going to slap me across the head.
As the old ladies continued to bitch slap the other, I finally figured out we were replaying West Side Story with the Jets and the Sharks. The ‘Money’ was code for cigarets. When I figured that out, I had a clear, negotiating arm.
“Look, Daphne, if mom owes you cigarets, just let me know and I will reimburse you.” “Three ought to do it,” she simpered.
My next step was to scamper up to the third floor to talk to the Nurse on duty I told her what happened and she smiled, that smile that says “you should have come to me first….”
…”Daphne hasn’t smoked in three weeks - she forgets - so next time they start arguing just tell them to come to me and I will explain it to them.”
Oh, I get it now. By the time the Jets and the Sharks make it up the elevator to talk to the Nurse… they will have forgotten… until I show up the next time.