Turned to Stone

She doesn’t trust the physician or the nursing staff in the home to give her mother adequate care. Present only on specific days for several hours, the doctor attends to those who the nursing staff have trouble with. Her mother seldom raises attention, so she is overlooked. Lately, she has noticed a change in her mother, who has begun speaking about the animals that wander the facility. The daughter reports she has only seen one cat, though she is aware there may be several. The animals, she was told, are therapeutic for those who live there. The dark haired daughter stops speaking and gazes at her mother, who remains seated in the wheelchair by her side, then comments her mother always had dogs in the house. The elder woman’s eyes fix her daughter and she nods, repeating, ‘Dogs, yes…they’re chasin the chickens…and the birds are flying every which way, squawkin’ and fleein’ from the dogs.’ The doctor raises an eyebrow, but the daughter shakes her head, her silky brown hair sleek under the fluorescent lighting in the room. The doctor reminds the pair this is a movement disorder clinic. The daughter shakes her head again, not dissuaded by the physician’s comment. She notes she found him online, at the university website, and when she spoke with the secretary, she got an appointment. Though her mother has had hallucinations for some time, it’s the slowness that’s new. The nursing staff hardly notices.

The doctor scans the information sheets, noting her mother is taking no prescription medicines. He asks whether the patient ever saw a doctor regarding her hallucinations. The daughter reports her mother had a stroke several years ago, and moved to a nursing home when she and her siblings thought it would be safer than allowing her to return home with a wheelchair. About the hallucinations, the daughter shrugs stating she really isn’t sure, mother has always seen things. The physician glances at the younger woman, who shrugs, then turns and asks the patient her age, and whether she knows the date. The voice of the white haired woman is clear, high and her blue eyes scan the doctor’s features. She’s eighty-three and it’s the day after Valentine’s day, 2012. He asks about the things she sees, and she nods. He rephrases the question and asks about the animals in the facility she lives in. She nods again, reporting the dogs come through in the morning, there are eight or so. The smallest is dirty white, hairy and short. Some days the chickens wander through before them, and sometimes they’re being chased. She’s only seen the peacocks once. The morning they paraded by, several of her friends also saw them. Several times she’s seen a lioness. The doctor comes around the desk and asks for her hand. She extends her arm. Her thin skin is pale, her fingers unusually straight, while he asks whether the animals scare her. ‘No, they go on about their business. Don’t care too much for the snakes though.’ He glances at the daughter who raises her eyebrows. He moves her hand about her wrist noticing some rigidity in the movement and inquires whether she feels she’s become slower in movement. She nods commenting some days she feels she’s turned to stone. He smiles and asks her where she sees the snakes.

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