Thursday, 19 April 2018

A to Z Challenge - Q is for the Queen of the Mall

Mom and I, January 2002

Today I again offer an excerpt from the memoir, a work in progress, about walking with my late mother through the tangles of dementia. In today's piece, it is February 2002. Mom is nearly 81 years old and she is recovering from a stable impacted hip fracture. It's early days and we are just beginning to discover that a hip fracture is the least of our problems.


Following her hip fracture, my sister Cathy and I took Mom to the mall every Friday, for some shopping, lunch and a visit to the hair salon. We discovered that she was quite the celebrity at the mall. Cheerful waves and greetings, “Hello Irene!” announced her wheelchair parade through the wide concourse. It felt a bit like accompanying royalty and so we dubbed her, ‘The Queen of the Mall’. If a pumpkin can become an elegant carriage, then surely a wheelchair can become the royal landau!  Mom loved it.

While she was being primped and coifed, Cathy and I made our own stroll through the concourse. Nobody greeted us with waves and smiles, but a few had stories to tell. Mom’s beloved pharmacist  was more than eager to help the Queen, and told us that on several occasions in the past six months or so, he had convinced Mom to let him sort through her BIG RED shoulder bag, loaded with all kinds of pills – blue ones, red ones, white ones; pink and yellow and green ones; some prescribed, most not. Each time he threw out the junk and counseled her at length about which drugs to take when. On a few occasions, he told us that he drove Mom home because she seemed so very confused and flustered.

The cosmetician at the pharmacy was also happy to meet us. We learned from her that several times over the past months, the Queen had come into the store looking somewhat disheveled – buttons done up wrong, sweater twisted, pant leg caught up in hosiery and the like – and that she had taken time to redress her. She also tried to discourage Mom from making purchases of the same items bought the week before, but every week, Mom insisted that she had to have the Vichy cream and the red lipstick and the blue eyeshadow. As always on our visits, she asked us how Mom was and then in a more serious tone inquired, “Now, how are you doing?”

I must have looked a little ragged, though I thought that I was doing great. I worked a full schedule, never missed a beat, and I devoted every Friday, my day off, to Mom. Though the number of troubling revelations was increasing, it was happening at a manageable pace with plenty of time for each new piece of information to be digested, categorized, rationalized and strategized. But at night when the day was far spent, the busy world was hushed, and the clock struck 0-dark-30, I lay wide awake, sometimes for hours, tormented by the dementia demon hissing in my ear...
“She’s got it, you know...
She’s gonna shit her pants and wet herself...
She’s gonna become a drooling, smelly, gorked out old soul sprawled in a gerichair.
Soon she won’t have a clue who you are.”
Back in the Mall, Cathy and I crammed ourselves along with the Queen in her wheelchair into a public washroom. She balked at using the handicapped stall. “I don’t need that!” she barked. Then she refused to take her bulky winter coat off, but instead impulsively stood up, stepped forward and stumbled over the footplates. She sagged back into the wheelchair. “Oh, I’m going to wet my panties if you two don’t do something!” She began to cry.

I crouched down to move the footplates out of the way, then looking up at her, I took her hand and gently pleaded, “Mommy, please let’s get your coat off so you can move more easily.”

She snatched her hand out of mine and snapped, “Oh all right, but hurry up.”

We got Mom into the cubicle and she latched the door. With a sigh of relief flecked with sorrow, I slumped my back against the door. It was only then that I saw the woman at the sink washing her hands. Our eyes met in the mirror, her face, lined with wisdom was brimming with compassion.

Her gentle words, little more than a whisper traveled the space between us, “All you can do is love her.”

Mom at 18 years old

©2018 April Hoeller


  1. Well told recollection of what had to be a difficult time, April. It was nice that the woman in the restroom had something kind to say.

    Emily In Ecuador

  2. From friends who have a parent with dementia I think you need the memory she is loosing to remember who she really is and not what she seems like right now. It must be very hard, I hope I never know what having a parent with Alzheimer is like.