My mom fell and broke her hip so while she's in rehab I've been staying in her apartment in assisted living. It has been a few weeks now, and odd as this existence may be, I've gotten used to checking my e-mail on the public computer in the library, used to having no neighbors under the age of eighty, used to taking the elevator crammed with chairs and walkers, used to living in an apartment with a pa system, and no kitchen, one that workers can access with their own keys whenever they wish.
But I was not prepared to be awakened by a woman's voice calling "HELP ME! HELP ME!" last night.
My first thought was to go help as requested, But then I realized the calls were coming from the floor above me, the third floor, the memory unit.
Then I knew it wasn't me she was calling, and knew that whatever help I could offer would be insufficient.
Right or wrong, I stayed where I was and listened as she called and called and called and called and called.
No one seemed to come. Or, if they came, the help they offered was not what she wanted, or she didn't know they'd come... Anything was possible on the third floor.
Remember he story of Kitty Genovese from the 70s? Screaming and screaming as she was being murdered and although many people heard her screams, no one did jack shit? No one came or responded.
Was I all those reprehensible people who didn't want to get involved?
Truth is, the relentless calls were getting really annoying. It was 3:something am when she woke me and she was still going strong at 4:45. Didn't that degree of untiring dedication speak of madness? I closed the balcony doors to dull the sound, but it came through the ceiling, or the sprinklers, or the hall.
I couldn't blame the third floor nurses for ignoring her, or giving up on her or wanting to smother her with her pillow. You could tell from her tone she was a pain-in-the ass, the kind of patient everyone loathed. The kind you could only pity AFTER she stopped screaming.
I never knew this about myself, and would've gotten really pissed at anyone who suggested I could be so callus, but
I covered my ears and eventually slept.
And ashamed or not, if she pulls that crap again tonight, I'm sure I'll have no more compassion than I did last night. Perhaps less.
File this under getting to know myself?