I’m spending a few days with my mother. She’s doing all right for 87. Losing her vision, so she’s living in an assisted-living facility in Cleveland. A really nice one.
So how’s it going, Mom?
“I need a harder toothpaste. The one I have is too soft, I use it up too quick.”
The television’s usually on all day. She watches only one channel. Like I said, she’s 87, so it’s Fox News. I have one rule when I visit. The moment I step in the door, the TV is turned off.
They’re lying to you, Mom.
“Oh, but I like the people.”
Mom, Fox is a culture of sexual harassment. The former CEO, Roger Ailes. Eric Bolling. Bill O’Reilly.
“Oh, Bill O’Reilly, that doesn’t surprise me.”
She goes into her bedroom to take a nap. But first, she turns on the radio. Mom doesn’t like silence.
It’s a right-wing station. And apparently a pretty low-watt station, because the host of the talk show has to shout to be heard.
“Maybe we’re going to see this Trump tax-cutting bill passed after all,” he says. “Maybe you don’t like the guy, but low taxes creates jobs. Who doesn’t like jobs? That’s a good thing, right?”
“He’s lying to lying to you,” I tell my mother. There’s no evidence that giving money to rich people has ever resulted in job creation. Demand for goods and services creates jobs, not a rich guy looking for something to do with extra cash in his bank account. “They just keep the money for themselves.”
The guy on the radio has heard me. “Have you ever worked for a broke person?”
Probably. And a lot of people who have worked for Donald Trump have worked for a broke person as well. He’s filed for bankruptcy six times.
A few years ago, my mother was seeing people walk through her house. Strangers of normal size, and lots of little people. Three little girls in particular. They didn’t say anything, just smiled and moved on. My mother has Charles Bonnett Syndrome. It’s found in elderly people with limited eyesight. The brain isn’t getting enough visual stimulation, so it starts feeding on stored images. The strangers, the torn curtains and the mountain with people sledding on it that she saw when she looked out her window in the middle of Ohio farm country in June were hallucinations. She knows that now, and after a while the odd images disappeared. But they do return on occasion, although much less intensely. Like during Game One of the World Series. Instead of seeing Dodgers and Astros, Mom said she saw pink flowers.
More from the radio. “Scientists have discovered a 21-year-old woman who sweats blood,” says a perky-voiced woman newscaster. I guess we’re expected to say, “Ewwww!” Presented with another person’s distress, rather than compassion we’re supposed to be entertained. Stay tuned, she’ll tell us more in a few moments.
She doesn’t talk about them much, but Mom is drawn to odd stuff and conspiracies. She was into Art Bell, the host of the overnight radio talk show Coast to Coast. Talk of UFOs, aliens. That’s where she heard about the Dyatlov Pass mystery, where nine Russian winter hikers were found dead in 1959 in very strange circumstances, with inexplicable injuries. The last book she read, before her eyesight had deteriorated too much, was about whether the victims died in an avalanche, experienced panic attacks due to infrasound, were accidentally killed by Russian military tests or were murdered by a wandering group of yeti.
Late night, early-morning talk shows are also where my mother hears about great, life-enhancing products. Fruit juice mixes, cleaning products and My Pillow. I mentioned My Pillow to My Friend Sarah. “I got one of those,” she said. “It was a disaster.”
My brother, who lives just five minutes away from Mom, has managed to discourage her from investing in My Pillow. And that excruciatingly expensive skin cream.
Mom’s actually quite intelligent. She just tends to believe anything she hears on TV or the radio.
I hear the muffled radio voices from her bedroom again. The 21-year old woman who sweats blood has an extremely rare condition called hematohidrosis.
Mom misses Art Bell, who has retired. But others are eager to help. I’ve found four scraps of paper around her apartment with “Smart Mouth” written on them. It’s a miracle mouthwash she’s been hearing about on Coast to Coast. She wants some.
I’m thrilled my mother is so interested in personal hygiene.
Yeah, Mom’s doing all right. Thanks for asking.
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