Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Anna's Mind Time Travels At The Speed Of Sound

Anna's been home for 12 days, when he spikes a fever (101° F) and his congested chest breathing and coughing starts up again. The symptoms are similar to the symptoms that landed him in hospital last time. So I call the doctor who listens to me patiently and prescribes medication for the weekend. I am told to bring Anna to the hospital on Monday. It takes two hours at the hospital to find out that Anna's chest is clear but he has an infection.

Anna has little recollection of his stay in hospital and seems more disoriented and forgetful than normal. This is common with Dementia patients - physical illness negatively impacts mental acuity. I have dealt with this before and think I am ready for any disorientation, delusion, or hallucination to follow.

I am wrong.

I drop Anna at home at 1:30pm. I have lunch and just about sit down to relax when the phone rings. The attendant tells me that Anna is agitated and refusing to eat lunch. I ask him to put Anna on the phone and spend 40 mins with him on the topic of money.  From "all my money is lost" to "I have no money here" to "what happened to my money" to "I am a pauper". I patiently explain to him that his money is in the bank, that no money is lost, that I manage his money, to ask me if he needs money, to trust me.

He still refuses to eat unless I show him where the money is! I tell him that I will show him his passbooks when I see him later. So I gather my laptop and hoof it over to his flat after a nap (I so needed a nap!)

Anna: Bandiya-Amma? (So you've come)

Me: Yes Anna.

Anna's staff tell me that he had custard 'n banana for lunch. Milk, sugar, fruit - good calories as far as I am concerned. Not really lunch as far as Anna is concerned.

Photo: The Times Of India
Anna (very upset): Sangeeta, I have lost all my money!

Me: What money, Anna?

Anna: Money that was in the house.

Me: Anna, household spending money is with Tairas.

Anna: I need money for my expenses too.

Me: Yes Anna. I have that money. I manage it for you.

Anna: Where is the money?

Me: Anna, the money is in the bank. I take it out from the ATM when you need it.

Anna: Where?

I soon realise that Anna does not understand the concept of banking. So I explain basic banking and how we can withdraw deposited money from an ATM machine. He is somewhere in his childhood where there are no banks and definitely no ATMs.

Anna: Now I understand why Padu says he carries no money. He uses that machine (referring to an ATM). Anna's younger brother, K V Padmanabhan, passed away in April 2009. Anna thinks Padukaka is still alive.

Me: Yes, Anna. He uses an ATM.

Anna: So have we done the division.

Me: Division of what, Anna?

Anna: Amma's things. Are Krishna and Padu here?

My grandmother, Ananthalakshmi
For a couple of seconds, I think he is talking about my mother. He isn't. He is talking about his mother and the time just after her death in 1984.

Me: Yes Anna. What do you want with Krishna and Padu?

Anna: Has Amma's jewellery been divided? Are they happy?

Me: Yes, Anna. My grandmother probably had only one chain and nose ring, & one pair of earrings and bangles when she died.

Anna: Do I have money in the bank?

Me: Yes Anna.

Anna: Will it be at least Rs. 3,000/-?   He says this in a tone that implies that Rs. 3,000/- is a very healthy bank balance.

Me: Yes Anna. I don't want to confuse him with real numbers that are healthier.

Anna: Oh OK! That is good!

Me: Anna, are you feeling calmer now?

Anna: I need some money to spend.

Me (showing him the money in his wallet): Anna, you have Rs 570/- in your wallet for spending.

Anna: That is not too much money.

Me: Anna, the rest of the money is in the bank.

Anna (after a long period of silence): I wanted to ask you all this before now, but you had told us not to discuss money when other people are around. There are always people around.

My Mother, Sarala
Yes, I had. My parents would discuss money matters in rented taxis all the time. I had to sit them down and explain to them why this was dangerous. I literally forbade them from talking about money unless they were alone at home!

Me: Anna, you remember that!?

Anna: Yes, you just told us. "Us" is my mother and him. I had probably told them this the early 2000s. My mother passed away in 2011.

Anna: What is my net worth?

Me (not sure what time period he is in and what an appropriate number is): How much do you think it should be, Anna?

Anna quotes a figure that is a few lakhs. I agree.

Anna: What about the safety deposit box?

Me (after I tell him where it is): Why do you want your safety deposit box?

Anna: Amma's jewellery is there. But, it should be empty now.

Me: Yes Anna. Remember after Amma died (in 2011), I cleaned out the box and divided all her jewellery between the children? There is nothing there now.

Anna smiles at this: Good.

This goes on for hours. The theme is money but the time frame moves years, forwards and backwards. Seamlessly. Constantly.

I wonder who he thinks I am. Not Sangeeta, as I do not exist in all the time periods in his mind.

I am really exhausted at the end of my visit and so happy he decides to nap before dinner.

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