Alison McQueen


Things that my mother talks about

My mother is 84 now. Not only is she rather blind, she has also become deaf…

Telephoning her is a nightmare. Firstly, it’s quite likely that she won’t answer because she can’t hear it, which means that muggins here has to then get in the car and drive for an hour to check she isn’t lying on the floor like a tortoise. Secondly, if I do get through, I then have to scream down the phone until my tonsils feel like they’re going to explode. Even then, she’ll go “hello? hello? are you still there?’ and sometimes hang up. Going to visit her is no tea party either. Her top ten conversational topics go like this…

1. Dead people, particularly people who have recently died, and the method of their demise.

2. Soon-to-be-dead people, with all the details of what’s wrong with them.

3. Dead pets, including the dog in the house fire that was apparently overcome by fumes, even though nobody was around to verify this report, and the dog may well have caused the housefire itself in an delibereate act of arson because it was sick to death of living with an old person.

4. Old sick people with horrible diseases that will probably kill them.

5. People I don’t know or care about, who are either sick, or know somebody who’s sick, or dead.

6. Diabetes (hers).

7. People with diabetes who have contracted gangrene and had to have parts of their body amputated.

8. Ready meals, and how they are not suitable for diabetics, which is a scandal.

9. Dead people, because she can’t remember that she’s already told me about them several times (see No.1).

10. I’m sorry, who are you?

Do not resuscitate!

My mother goes on at me that if she has some kind of incident that involves her being found in a heap on the floor, she does not want to be resuscitated. She goes on about it, then finishes off with a great crescendo, shouting “Do not resuscitate!” Uh-huh, I say, then ask her if she has actually mentioned any of this to her GP.

She doesn’t seem to understand that of course she’ll be resuscitated unless she either has the instruction tattoed on her forehead or, at the very least, noted prominently on her medical records. She’s been dragged off to hospital on a couple of occasions, having been at the KitKats and fallen into a diabetic coma.”I don’t want to live any more,” she says. The thing that baffles me is that an insulin-dependent diabetic has only to leave out their evening dose, or shoot up an extra couple of cartridges, and it’s Goodnight Vienna. It’s no good her shouting at me that she doesn’t want to be resuscitated when we’re sitting there watching Bargain Hunt, is it? Old people, eh? It’s enough to make you want to cuddle them. I have told my daughters, if ever I get old and pesky, just shove me under a bus.

Hello? Hello? Is there anybody there?

The mother is convinced that her telephone isn’t working. She says that it doesn’t even ring most of the time. Then she starts phoning me and my sister, demanding to know Did you just ring me? 

I call her most days, just to check that she’s still alive, but of course now that I am ringing and getting no answer, chances are I will end up jumping in the car and driving over, thinking she must have fallen down the stairs or come a cropper in the bathroom.

Yet whenever I arrive, there she is, happily glued to Homes Under The Hammer. I ask her, trying to mask my exasperation: ‘Didn’t you hear the phone ringing?’ (My sister and I have tested it several times and it rings just fine. We think she’s probably going deaf.) My sister rang me yesterday, having finally got to the bottom of the big telephone mystery. ‘I know why we’re not getting an answer when we ring,’ she explained. ‘I turned up today and found mum trying to answer the television remote control.’