Leave me my name!

“Because it is my name. I can have no other one in my life. Leave me my name!” [John Proctor in The Crucible by Arthur Miller]

My son is studying The Crucible for Higher English so we watched the DVD of the 1976 film last night. The screenplay was written by Miller, so it is reliable as a study aid. As it turned out, John Proctor’s anguish at the end helped me release my own emotion of the day.

While we were away at a university open day Mum had to manage by herself from Friday tea time until Saturday bed time. She was furious (actually she was frightened) at the prospect of her safety net (me) being unavailable, and for a few minutes I seriously considered staying at home, just letting my husband and son go. However, she has her ‘red button’ emergency service and I prompted my brother to call her.

I felt bad about going, but she insists on staying in her own  house, and refuses to have local authority carers, so I hardened my heart and did my parental duty instead of my filial one.

I phoned her on Saturday, early evening, and she said all was well, so we agreed I would go down and see her on Sunday morning. When I arrived I immediately noticed that her large and very heavy coffee table had been moved, but she was not able to tell me how that had happened.

A couple of hours later a local woman I don’t know rang the bell and came in. She said she had just popped in to see if Mum was  all right after her fall last night! It turned out that Mum had fallen on the living room floor and had yelled for help as this woman and her husband passed the window. The door being unlocked (a double-edged sword), they were able to come in and help her up. She was not injured.

Mum didn’t want me to know about this fall. I understand that. But I was gobsmacked to realise she had told me a totally convincing bare-faced lie about not knowing why or how the table had been moved, including that nobody had been in the house (I specifically asked her that).

What happened next, though, has rocked me. Mum was cross that this woman had spilled the beans about her fall, and said to the woman, “I didn’t want her to know; she is vicious.” Who me? What? Where did that come from? The poor good samaritan realised she had caused a problem and beat a hasty retreat.

I was really taken aback by what Mum had said – nothing has ever happened between us to warrant that choice of word. Impatient? Yes. Argumentative? Sometimes. But vicious? I’m actually quite a kind and cooperative person – you know the kind of person who sees the bigger picture and wants the best possible outcome for all (a bit of a utilitarian, perhaps?).

In fact, this is not the first time she has described me using that word; she has said it twice before to my knowlege, once to her GP and once to her elderly care team key worker. [There is another potential blog post on kicking the cat – avoidance and deflection as coping strategies.] I’m now realising she might have said it more often to other people.

This time she has said it to some random person in our very small town, who doesn’t know us well enough to know that Mum has vascular dementia, but knows us enough for me to be tarred with that epithet. The more I reflect on it, the more serious I think this problem is, but I have no idea what to do about it.

Her words hurt my feelings, and I just have to hope they don’t hurt my good name.

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