A lady whose daughters had been students of mine many years back called me up to set an appointment for her aging mother. They belonged to upper middle class half-American, half Filipino families who used to live in an upscale subdivision before they all migrated to Canada in 2005 or thereabouts.
She complained that her mother of late, in her eighties, had been forgetful. She would forget to close the faucet, turn out the shower and switch off the light. She also had forgotten how to operate their microwave oven which she was used to doing.
As the daughter was a busy businesswoman and civic worker, she set the appointment for the following month as whatever odd behavior her Mom had been showing were, in her words – all tolerable. Besides, she was in the middle of preparing for a European tour for her and her husband.
Two weeks before the scheduled visit, she canceled the appointment saying that her Mom had improved a lot. In fact, she was back helping her in the utility room with the laundry. Folding each piece of clothing until it was free of crease and wrinkle and piling them neatly one on top of the other. This went on really well and the daughter was ecstatic.
I couldn’t be happier for both.
However, the following day after that call to cancel the appointment, I got a frantic call from the same daughter, her voice quavering on the other line.
I asked what happened. She said, in a voice punctuated with tearful sobbing, ‘I have to see you ASAP Doc. I have to see you ASAP.’
I told her to calm down and she did, especially after I assured her that I can squeeze her in, in my schedule the following day.
Then I asked her what made her change her mind.
She narrated that while they were in the utility room that morning, folding the laundry and other activities of the daily grind, things were going OK like the previous days – her mother folding the clothes neatly and carefully like she used to doing. She was even better now in that she would separate her clothes from her grandchildren’s, her daughter’s and her son-in-law’s.
‘That’s great, I don’t see any problem’, I interjected.
‘Here’s the problem doctor’, the daughter said. ‘ I asked my Mom to place the clean clothes into the cabinets. She smiled as she complied. I saw her bring one pile and I presumed she placed them in the cabinets. She came back to get another pile. But then again she came back much too soon than I expected her to be. You see, the rooms and the cabinets were on the second floor. So I went out to see if indeed she placed them in her cabinet. There was none. Then I checked the drawers, there was none. I checked all the rooms – the clothes were not there! So I decided go back to the utility room where she was to ask her where she had been storing all our clothes. On my way back, I decided to get a glass of water and what do you know, when I opened the refrigerator, all the clothes were neatly piled in there!’
I saw them both in my clinic the following day.
DISCLAIMER: The identities of the subjects in the vignettes and other stories on this blog are intended to be ‘anonymous’ to protect the patient and their families and keep the doctor-patient confidentiality or fiduciary relationship. The personas cited here are not meant to be blind items or fodder for gossip. My lips are zipped in that department. Some of their identities and circumstances have been altered but the nuances of their medical condition are fact and not hidden behind veiled medical-clinical fiction. Think Oliver Sack’s ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’. Okay, it’s like comparing Roederer Cristal rose wine with vin d’ table but I know you see the drift.