You have to get buzzed in. This is not so much for security as it is to keep the memory care residents from slipping out. In the case of my mother flight was not a concern. Once fairly athletic she was now barely ambulatory, and mentally, more of her had already vanished than was present. Still, enough consciousness remained to converse, sort of, and to allow her to think to ask me what all the fuss was about.
I had to dig, and of course she didn’t understand agitation needed a source. Perhaps it was just in the air. I wondered, was her distress from a person living in the facility, something she was thinking? She couldn’t say. Through a roulette wheel approach I hit upon the idea that the television was involved. Somehow. And by further inquiry, sussed out it may have been the news which droned in the background that was the culprit. “Things are messed up, I offered.” Then out of the blue she blurts, “We’re Russian, aren’t we?”
Man, this was complicated. The more I tried to parse facts and think of a way to explain, the more this resembled a tangled fishing line that went from a cluster of knots, to some unravel-able cat-hair jumble. “Yes, mom we have Russian ancestry. But we’re Americans, have been for three generations.” She persisted, “So what’s the…what is the… she could not identify the concept of a disturbance..like the disquiet was a vague miasma floating head high, or one of those gelatinous fields seen from the Enterprise bridge, hovering and ominous.
Her dementia somehow seemed a suitable container for this extremely oblique situation we all find ourselves in. As if a kaleidoscope had exactly matched a pattern of broken glass played on a table. She continued to be clearly disturbed by something, and I didn’t know if peeling things back would help relax her. There was nothing to lose by turning the ring on the kaleidoscope and try to show her the crazy pattern. Sometimes she had a remarkable lucidity for events in her past. Random occurrences were major touchstones, both for her self-recognition, and as bridge to communicate.
“Mom, it’s like this. Do you remember the Rosenbergs?” “Did you play baseball with Todd?” “No. I did with his brother Paul, but they were the Rosenthals.” How she could pull that utter trivia from our remote past was mind boggling. She presently doesn’t know her own children, grandchildren, parents, or even her own name. “No, the Rosenberg’s were a Jewish couple from NY, when you were younger. They were convicted of spying for the Russians, and were executed for treason.”
“I don’t know. I think I may remember,” she said, not showing any signs memory.” “Electrocuted.” “Oh Yes.” A light flickered, a candle down to its last bit of wick. I didn’t add that Roy Cohn, who was Joe McCarthy’s henchman at the time and prime provocateur of the Red Scare, was Trump’s mentor. And he also was the one who finagled the appointment of the judge who ordered the execution. I also didn’t mention, as a result of the recent election, the future of US sovereignty was in grave peril. I also left out that the alarm was being sounded at this late hour by no less an agency than the CIA. Itself no stranger to electoral meddling, and regime influence.
“So, Mom, it appears Donald Trump…,” At this she flashed recognition, and no wonder she did. As a lifelong New Yorker, Trump’s smarmy antics were pervasive, going back to the seventies. She did not know him from the campaign, nor his stint on The Apprentice. Her lens was the Trump of golf courses, despoiling neighborhoods, beauty pageants, benders. This apotheosis of gaudiness was about to become President of the United States, evidently a tool of our arch adversaries.
Of course I knew she wasn’t able to following this little mosaic…but she could recall that the Rosenberg’s were zapped until smoke came out of their heads for allegedly passing secrets to the Russians. Now by way of subterfuge and deflection we have a newly elected President, aided and abetted by the Russians, long standing foe of the same CIA whose raison d’être was to follow and thwart Russian advances. Yet, unsurprisingly, this President Elect blithely denies all collusion, which also includes complicity by ranking members of Congress. It’s being played not as a constitutional crisis, more like a blemish on a front-nine green that doesn’t effect the roll of the putt so much, but didn’t look good for the cameras.
Could I impart any information to either clarify or illuminate this situation? Explaining anything to her was out of the question. But I was able to, as they say in the trade, redirect her, by imparting this last little doozy which pretty firmly shut the door on whether or not she wanted to know anything further about this turn of events. I said, “You remember the Nazis, right? The Holocaust? Well, the country of Germany is now a holdout of tolerant and progressive Democracy, while here in the good old USA those Nazis reincarnated are among our future president’s most animated supporters.
Her eyes glazed a bit….She seemed to struggle to comprehend, then let it go. I’m going leave off now…The shagginess of this shaggy dog story still unfolds. Only in Dementialand does it make sense that the Educational Secretary is a Creationist, the Labor Secretary runs a Fast Food Empire, the EPA head denies Climate Change, the Interior Secretary wants to drill on Preserved Lands. My mother withers in her crib, her strength and élan fading by the day. The world twists in the wind.
Although many lives were ruined and lost, the Rosenbergs were the only people executed by the US during the Cold War, for conspiring to help the Russians. In light of the moment, of whom do we ask why? They were convicted and sentenced to death under Section 2 of the Espionage Act of 1917, which prohibits transmitting or attempting to transmit to a foreign government information "relating to the national defense".
I guess being inexplicably and irredeemably cast into a dense cloud, unable to discern dream from reality may be a kind of mercy. For some more than others. Go figure.