The Dreadful Call

The Dreadful Call                      by Lori La Bey

My father was standing in the hallway just off the living room next to the bathroom door.  Pain appeared to seep from every pour of his body.  “My God Dad, what is going on?”  I asked as I rushed over to him.  The always-present smell of Timeless perfume overwhelmed my nostrils.  It was my mother’s favorite.  His head turned towards mine, his eyes were bland, weighted with sorrow, a vast change from his normal shining crystal blues I was a custom too.  “The doctor called.” he stated as he started walking towards me.  “He told mom you called and that the family thinks she has Alzheimer’s.”   “He what?”  I snapped.  “That jerk, that is not what I said!  Damn it!  Damn those idiots!”  I briskly walked past my Dad and towards the bathroom.  “Mom, Mom are you ok?” I asked.    “Just leave me alone.  Go away!”  There was a brief pause and than she said, “Just let me die! Go!”  She whaled between loud sighs.  In my mind, I was sure the tears were blinding her sight as I heard her blow her nose.  “Just Go!  Please.  Just leave me alone!”

I told Dad to stay by the bathroom door and keep talking to Mom as I walked into the living room.  “I need to call the doctor and find out what exactly was said.”   My Father replied in a low tone with little energy, “ok.”  I picked up their black rotary phone.  My God, why do people still use these heavy beasts went through my mind as I impatiently poked my finger in to each individual number whole and pulled my finger around in a circular motion to place the call.  All I heard was click, click, click, as the phone worked its magic.  It felt like it took forever before I heard the phone actually ring at the other end.  When answered, I immediately asked for the Doctor, and I of course was passed onto his Nurse, Nancy. 

I explained the situation we were dealing with and asked again to speak with the Doctor.  This in my mind was an emergency.  Nancy politely informed me the Doctor was not available and, in addition, he was not the one who placed the call to my Mother.  It was her.  I then asked Nancy for the details of the conversation.  We needed to know what we were dealing with.   Nancy promptly informed me Hippa regulations would not allow her to disclose anything to anyone, but mom.  I was told in no uncertain terms I would not be getting any information.  It was strictly confidential.  My face was getting hot, as my blood pumped fast and hard, heating up every inch of my body.  I took a deep breath and tried again to explain the urgency of our situation.  No such luck.  Nurse Nancy was not going to budge, and she was repeating her Hippa bullshit.  I cut her off sharply, and explained in no uncertain terms she could throw her regulations out the window, since she so ignorantly put my Mother’s health in jeopardy.  I also told her, “I will be in contact with you and the Doctor in the near future.  You both better buckle up for that conversation, especially if any harm or worse comes to my Mother over this unnecessary situation!”   They haven’t begun to see the wrath of this daughter I thought.  Oh, they have no idea what they are in for!

I slammed down the telephone, all ten pounds of that black metal beast.  “Don’t these Fuckers understand the impact of their comments?”  I whined with anger to my Father.  OH, SCREW THEM!  My mind screamed.  CALM DOWN LORI.  Stop the tears.  GET BACK TO MOM!

I walked back to my Dad by the bathroom door, grabbed his hand, squeezed it, and motioned for him to sit down on the blue couch before he collapsed.  I than explained to my Mother, who still had herself locked in the bathroom, and my exhausted Father on the couch how my conversation with Nancy, the Doctors nurse went.  “Yes, I did call the Doctor mom.  I DID NOT SAY YOU HAD ALZHEIMER’S.  I just said I was concerned with the way you acted the night of our annual girls Christmas shopping.  Mom, you usually could walk that mall blindfolded and that night you were withdrawn and appeared confused.    Mom you were so different, it was scary.   Your eyes looked fuzzy and glazed.  When I looked at you, I wasn’t sure you were in there until you said something.   Instead of leading the pack, you just sat outside the stores all alone on the mall benches.  You did not talk, you just waited for everyone to finish shopping and then off to the next store we would go and again you would not come in.  You just sat outside on a bench.  You really blew my mind when you asked me to bring you to the bathroom.  Heck mom, you were always the one to tell us where they were.  I just remember finding a mall directory and maneuvering us to the closest restroom thinking, what’s going on?  My mind was spinning.”  In my heart, I knew things were never going to be the same again.   I began to speak again, “I even wondered if you had a stroke?   But no, you seemed coherent, yet strange, different, withdrawn.  On the way home, you kept asking the same questions over and over to each of us girls.  Coleen, Terri, and I all noticed the changes in you, Mom.  We all love you.  We are worried about you.  We want to help.  You even mentioned several times to Dad and me in the two weeks prior to our shopping trip that you had asked the Doctor about your concerns regarding your memory.  Remember, he told you it was just hormonal, a normal aging thing.  I just asked if the Doctor could call you, back saying he had talked with some colleagues and now knows of some tests you could take to ease your mind.  That was it Mom.  That was all I said.  I never said we thought you had Alzheimer’s.  You were the one saying that, Mom.”  I paused finally, just exhausted by my pleading. 

I could hear the medicine cabinet rattle and pill bottles shake.  Why couldn’t they use some common sense?  Be respectful of this tenuous situation and understand the fear, the emotions, and psychological impact of the situation. Idiots!  How could Healthcare professionals be so damn dumb!  The voice in my head said.  I looked over at my Dad, our helpless eyes met.  His body had melted into the blue couch.  Silent, alone, and still, he sat.

“Mom” I said as I looked down at the blue shag carpet with specs of green in it.  “How are you doing?  I heard the medicine bottles Mom.  Have you taken any pills?  I need to know Mom.  Please tell me.  I love you.  We all love you Mom!” 

“No one cares!  You will all be better off if I’m dead!”  My Mother frantically cried back, in wrenching pain. 

 “Mom, don’t talk like that!  You know that’s not true.  Mom, have you taken any pills?  I need to know Mom.  You know I need to know.  Please Mom, just tell me.  Please!” 

I begged feeling hopeless, alone, and disappointed in myself for allowing this to happen.  My knuckles hit the fifties blonde wood door, and with each strike, guilt stabbed my heart.  I could feel warmth running down my chest, like blood draining from my body.  The pain was almost unbearable.  “Mom, are you ok?  Mom, please answer me!   You know I’ll break this door down in no time flat if I have too.”  I gave her no time to respond, I just kept talking.  “Hell, Mom, you know the door is hollow it won’t take me long.  Mom, please come out!  We can talk this out.  We need to talk Mom.  This isn’t doing any of us any good Mom.”           

All I could hear was the tumble of the toilet paper rolling, and a yank, as she tore off a piece.  In my mind, I visualized her dabbing her glazed jet black eyes, with swatches of toilet paper.  I could see the sediment from the paper sticking in little balls on her face.  Her skin was red and puffy around her nose and eyes.  I could hear her honk after trying to clear her nasal cavities as she tried to catch her breath.  I could hear her deep irregular breathing; vibrate in a hollow darkness of despair and uselessness from behind the bathroom door.  It was such an overwhelming sense of isolation. 

So stark, so rare, the picture I envisioned was crippling.  Tears streamed down my face, as I leaned onto the bathroom door.  My palms spread, one on each side of my head, as if I was waiting for someone to pound nails into them.  Gladly you can take me, just let my Mother be all right!  Please dear God, let her be safe!  I kept saying in my mind.  My palms were hot.  They felt like they were melting into the blonde woodwork of the bathroom door.  If I could just melt my way through the wood door to my Mothers heart and just hold her soul in my hands. I knew she would feel safe and loved, and I pleaded with God again.

Bathroom scene  Illustration by Harry Pulver
Bathroom scene Illustration by Harry Pulver


We finally got my Mother out of the bathroom and talked her into going to see her Doctor.  It was a horrendous day and a big mistake on our part to not search out a Geriatric Specialist.  When Mom went for her test with her Family Doctor of 30 plus years, she was only given a 10 questions test.  Mom had a good day when she took the test, as she passed with flying colors.  From that point forward, there was no more discussion about her memory problems; until total disaster hit when my Father was diagnosed with a Brain tumor.

11 Replies to “The Dreadful Call”

  1. Lori this was beautifully written. I can’t imagine the pain a family goes through dealing with this horrible disease and hope I never find out.

    1. HI Sandy,
      Thanks for following the blog. I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. My Dad appeared weak and exhausted….just totally drained, not himself at all. It was life changing for all three of us. I too hope you never have to experience Alzheimer’s disease, but if you do I have to admit, it has taught me a lot and I truly feel I am a better person for going through the experience with my Mother.

      We still have to get together one of these days with Donna! We’ve been talking about for a few years now. I hope we can arrange something soon.

      Love ya Lori

  2. Lori, you have such a way of expressing thoughts, fears and emotions that everyone dealing with a parent or loved one with ALZ/dementia has. Your writing is a blessing to all of us to know that we’re not alone with our feelings of anger and frustration. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hey Lori,
    Oh, does this entry ever bring back a flood of memories from when my sister and I were juggling similar health issues with both my parents at the same time. She would be at one hospital navigating through the menagerie of doctors, nurses, social workers, etc. for one parent while I was half way across town at a different specialty hospital navigating through a similar scene with our other parent.

    I will NEVER forget the social worker who said to me, right in front of my mother as I was feeding her hospital pudding, “I don’t know why you bothered to go through this surgery with her; people in her [frail] condition aren’t likely to live very long anyway. I watched the life drain from my mother’s eyes in that moment, looking mortally defeated as she heard this comment from an “expert”.

    I laid my mother down and stormed out to the nurse’s station where I found this social worker and proceeded to lay into her at the very top of my voice so that EVERYONE on that wing would hear about the stupid, idiotic thing she had just done and the ramifications that had already occurred. After she slunk away, the head nurse stepped in to address my concerns. He had stood there, as did all the other staff, letting me speak [yell] my mind to this woman without interrupting, which surprised me, until he commented that my outrage was justified and then something to the affect of, “It’s about time…”. It was an “ah ha” moment when I realized that even the staff had been observing that she had long been doing harm to their patients and it was going unchecked.

    This wonderful head nurse immediately paged the surgeon who had spent three hours operating on Mom, conveying the urgency of the situation. Bless his heart, he came right away, sat on my mother’s bed next to her, and held her hand while he tried to undo all they damage that this one woman had caused in just one brief, insensitive sentence. This all occurred back in Jan./Feb. 2001. My mother is now 91 and still teaching us so much, including how to speak bits and pieces of Italian!

    Love, hugs and prayers to you, Lori!

    1. Kathryn,
      Wow what a story! thank you so much for sharing. It amazes me what we all go through in this life time. what a gift you were not only to your Mother, but the staff and the hospital itself for speaking your mind. Thanks again for sharing. I know reliving those moments can be painful but they help so many by sharing.

  4. Lori, that was dreadful! It is horrible when we most need help that we receive insensitivity from the ones who are in the position to answer our questions and direct us to the right place. I am so sorry to hear that about your father.

    1. HI Angie,
      Thank you for your comment. I do have to point out this story did happen several years ago and I personally think the medical profession has come a long way in understanding the true impact they have on their clients and their families. That is not to say there isn’t room for improvement. There is, and will always be room for that.!


  5. It’s amazing how different this is from my own situation, although I am not happy with the way the health professionals are dealing with my mother either.

    My mother doesn’t know that I am aware she has Alzheimer’s and she doesn’t want even to mention it. I pray that she doesn’t suddenly have this sort of reaction one day…

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. HI Mike

      You are so right, every situation is different on the patients side as well as how we as family, friends, and professionals all react. This disease is like a finger print, no 2 are a like.

      Best of luck with you and your family. I know how difficult it can be at times, so holding tight to the precious wonderful moments is critical for balance.

      Take care and thank you for commenting.


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