The first time Mother suffered an attack of acute delirium I thought she was playing up.
It happened a month or more ago. She was in the sitting room watching Good Morning Britain on the TV and I was in the kitchen loading a large sausage sandwich into my mouth.
I could barely hear her calling with all the churning and jawing noises as the first bite of my sandwich did a gentle tour around my molars.
She’s just forgotten how to use the TV remote again, I thought. I’ve got a minute or two before she starts cursing more loudly. I’ll finish the sandwich and then pop through.
My sausage sandwich is as large as Stonehenge
After all, I said to myself, the pure pork sausage was from my favourite farmer Richard Vaughan, doyen of rare breeds, and deserved to be slowly savoured and respected.
Plus, I had garnished this Stonehenge of a sandwich with mayonnaise, mustard, gherkins and tomatoes, which meant it was packing upwards of 2,500 calories. This was more than double the number of daily calories I had pledged myself to eat under my new Bojo inspired ‘Calorie Cuts against Covid’ regime.
I decided that if I was going to blow the overdraft on my daily diet with one gob-filling breakfast sandwich I would at least eat it slowly, so I could enjoy the full flavour of my guilt in all its sausageness.
TV sets were better in the 1950s
There was another faint noise from the sitting room. I put the sausage sandwich in my mouth, like a harmonica, and walked into the sitting room.
I was ready for a tirade from her for not having come sooner or a rehash of the lecture she gave my son the last time she lost the TV remote. It’s one in which she says TV’s were better for you in the Fifties and Sixties because you had to walk over to them and press a button on the set if you wanted to switch channels.
‘You mean you had to get off the sofa to choose what you wanted to watch?’ asked my son, incredulous.
‘Yes,’ said Granny. ‘You had to make a choice and stick with it. Or get off your behind and change it. There was none of this channel surfing nonsense in those days.’
‘My God,’ said my son. ‘It must have been savage.’
Mother is shaking uncontrollably
Instead of a lecture, I found Mother shaking uncontrollably at the ironing board. She was holding her hands out in front of her own. They were trembling uncontrollably. She was staring at them as if they were foreign part of her own body.
‘What’s happening to me,’ she asked, without anxiety, very softly.
Her feet and legs were jittering up and down, uncontrollably, and her head shook gently. It looked like she was in the process of being possessed.
‘I don’t know,’ I said.
‘Why can’t I stop shaking.’
‘I don’t know,’ I said.
At first, I thought this is a heart attack or a stroke. But she was still alive. And we were talking to each other, even if some of what she said was feverish and non-sensical. So, it can’t be that bad I thought, calming down.
I call NHS 111
I resisted the urge to call 999 and spoke to NHS 111. When i got through they asked if she was taking anti-biotic pills for a urinary tract infection. These infections are common in old people but not lethal by themselves.
When I dug out her box of pills box it was clear she had not been taking her tablets. After a little persuasion, I managed to get her to take the antibiotics and got her into bed. She fell asleep quickly. I went downstairs and slumped onto the sofa.
The window cleaner appeared from nowhere and leant his ladder against the house. Hello, he bellowed. Windows, today. Why not I thought and went to pick up the sausage sandwich which lay on the carpet in two pieces like an open book.
‘Can it happen, again,’ asked my wife, later that evening.
‘I hope not. It’s not a great experience,’ I said.
First published in the Chiswick Calendar