Adventures in Alzheimer’s – Chinese gunman edition

by Julie Frayn on September 12, 2014 in  Adventures in Alzheimer's,Mama Bird

We had a freak September snow storm this week. Freak with a capital F. Tree limbs were snapping off left and right, the poor trees not accustomed to thick, wet, heavy snow weighing down still-green leaves that were in as much shock as we were.

Cue the eerie knock at the door just after 6 a.m. on a Wednesday.

It was my neighbour and her dog. I’d never met either of them before. Seems she ran into my mother outside, shivering in the snow, confused, disoriented, in tears. She had mistaken the snapping of branches for gunfire.

Baby girl and I rushed over. Mom was inside by then, standing at her door, staring out into the darkness. She pretty much fell into my hug when we got inside, and cried into my ear.

“I think I’m having a heart attack.”

Mom never says that. Usually she says she’s just fine and don’t you dare call for help as she’s clutching her chest and digging in her purse for her nitro spray.

I asked why she didn’t call an ambulance. She didn’t remember how (the neighbour had asked why she didn’t call 911 and Mom said “What’s that?”). We got her upstairs and she began to calm down. It was clear she was having an anxiety attack, and her heart was just fine. For today. She told us of her harrowing morning Alz-venture.

Her TV was broken and she’d unplugged it (no, she hadn’t, she’d turned it off). She woke up to the sound of Chinese men talking in her house, standing right by the love seat not two feet from her, but she couldn’t see them. Then she heard the gunfire. She was convinced that Chinese gunmen were in her home to rob and kill her. So she fled outside. But there was more gunfire outside and she didn’t want to go back in where the Chinese men were waiting to murder her.

Baby girl turned on the TV. Mom had it on the Omni News channel. In the morning, the news is in Cantonese.

“There’s your Chinese men, Mom.”

Mom's broken ash

Mom’s broken ash

Her jaw fell open. And then she let out a little laugh. We convinced her that no one was shooting any guns, inside or out. That all the popping was tree limbs snapping off from the weight of the snow. Her 43 year old ash tree was one of the casualties, with one huge branch snapped at the trunk and the limbs and leaves blocking the sidewalk and spilling onto the road. We watched as a second branch cracked and crashed to the ground.

I joke about Alzheimer’s and the crazy shit that Mom says. But this time, it was scary. To see the look of sheer terror on her face, to hear her version of what she absolutely believed to be true. Glad we could talk her down from it. This time.

Two days later, in retrospect, yeah, it is funny. But not Mom’s tears. Not her trembling hands and pale face. No humour in that.


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