|Humor Script posted July 22, 2012|
NEVER underestimate 82 year olds!
This is a theatre script (not a movie screenplay). In this particular play you're going to "see" all the parts played by one person - the STORYTELLER, a woman in her mid fifties - who will appear onstage in just a moment. Don't be surprised if she talks to YOU in the audience! She might occasionally go to a props box to grab a costume piece or prop so you can "see" the character. But mostly, she simply uses her own voice, and uses mime - eg a cup & saucer would be "mimed". She plays everyone - Mother, daughter ... all the nurses etc. Trust me - you'll get it . This scene is set in Australia, so you'll hear some Aussie slang - but it will be self explanatory. The piece is a "monologue" - and is totally self contained. You don't have to have read any other "chapters" or scenes beforehand.
So here you are, sitting in your theatre seat - you look at your watch - put away your popcorn - the auditorium lights dim - the red velvet theatre curtains are slowly drawn back, revealing a bare stage. You'll probably see a couple of chairs ... maybe a props box. We're obviously in a hospital ward, so establish that setting in your mind. There might be some cheerful music playing inthe background which fades when the Storyteller starts to speak. She'll enter as the "Storyteller/ OT" - (OT stands for "Occupational Therapist" by the way) Don't forget, she'll have an Australian accent. The lights come up onstage as ...
(Cheerily bustling into the “ward”)
G’day Mrs Grey, how are you this morning? My name’s Joanne, and I’m your occupational therapist – the “O.T.”
Meet … My Mother.
That’s right – Occupational Therapist – you know what I do, right?
Not really but I’m sure you’re going to tell me.
Yep – now what we do is go out to your house, and do an assessment to see if it’s safe for you to go home or not.
I have managed to live in it for 40 years now – I’d say that it would probably be considered “safe”.
Oh you are funny!
(Cutting her off)
Please! I just want to go home.
Oh I know you do, but before that, we just have to go out and do an assessment-
Absolutely not! No one goes in my house. My house is MINE and no one from any government agency steps foot inside my front door. No one’s going to take my rights away from me!
But Mrs Grey -
Nope. Thank you very much for visiting but there’s no need to come back.
And so the poor OT goes out with her metaphorical tail between her legs.
We’re in the Rehab Unit - the Peacock Wing of the Royal Hobart Hospital - named after an unfortunate Australian Prime Minister, Andrew Peacock – unintentionally appropriate as it’s the place where oldies come when they’ve fallen off their perch.
(She presses the admission "buzzer")
They keep the doors locked. My mother is considered a flight risk. She’s just come out of 2 days of full fledged dementia and then ten days bed rest. Right now, she’s lucid – but no one trusts that the sanity is permanent. Mind you, her sanity has always been a little borderline. She’s 82 and a bit shaky on her pins but she’s checked herself out of more than one hospital before, so I wouldn’t put it past her. Hmm … she’s got herself a private room … I’d say the staff have probably got the message.
(Pushing the door open gently … looking in)
She’s so … old … now.
(To mother, “cheery”)
Hey Ma – how are you? Oh you’re looking a lot better.
Oh I am, am I? I would hope so. How much longer do I have to stay here?
She’s asking this question every day, more and more insistently.
I can hardly tell her my sisters and the gerontologist want to stash her in a nursing home and that they don’t want her to go back to her own home/ at all. Her house is big, beautiful, old and it’s a geriatric’s nightmare – flights of steps everywhere, loose paving stones …
“Easier this way – don’t give her time to get her hopes up” THEY say.
Easier for whom, I wonder.
And how do you live with no hope?
My mother is a very private person. Oh all right - let’s call a spade a spade. She hates people. Most people.
Painfully shy as a kid, child of two raging drunks, she has to grow up defending her privacy, out of shame. No other children can ever come to play. Then they’d know! They’d see her parents passed out – the place stinking of booze and cigarettes, always ugly and in disarray.
So no friends! That is her solution.
And, she takes an oath.
When I have a house and family of my own, they will be perfect … and I’ll only ever be surrounded by beautiful … things!
And she keeps it!
And my dad, myself and my 2 sisters, were we just a few more … “beautiful things” … to be kept displayed, in good order?
My dad died years ago, but Mother rattles around in this huge old house, and seems perfectly happy to continue to do so, surrounded by her “beautiful things.”
So … my sisters want to put her in a nursing home - why don’t they just hand her a gun? It would be more merciful.
(We hear a knock, and a Nurse comes bustling in)
Oh hi Mrs Grey, just checking on you.
Well I haven’t died since someone checked on me five minutes ago, if that’s what you mean.
Oh you mean the OT love.
I don’t know who it was. I try not to pay attention to these things. Am I going home today?
Oh you’ll have to talk to Dr Patel about that love. I’m just here to check and see if you had a B.M. today.
(With considerable asperity)
Oh why don’t we announce it over the public address system?
I’d LOVE to have a Bowel Motion, but every time I go to the bathroom someone is banging on the door asking me if I’ve had a bowel motion. If this keeps up, I won’t be dying from a haemorrhage – no, constipation will do me in. Now, if I could be left alone for long enough-
No worries love – I’ll be back later.
I’m sure you will.
(She watches the nurse leave)
Home. That’s all I want. A decent cup of coffee, a hot bath in my own bathroom, some clean clothes …
They’re trying to keep me here aren’t they!?
She’s no dummie.
I doubt it very much Mother. Frankly if I were on hospital staff I wouldn’t be busting myself to keep you here – you’re a pain in the butt, you know that.
Well I don’t try to be.
I know Mother – it just comes naturally.
Does this sound like someone who’s fallen off her perch? Crazy? She has some word finding problems sometimes … but then again, so do I. She’s 82 – she’s entitled to a few more.
They want to put her away - the gerontologist, “one of the foremost in Australia” (who can’t remember my mother’s name at the “family conference”) – and my two sisters, who think doctors are gods.
Hi Ma, it’s Sharyn … I’m a bit jet-lagged, but I made it …
Aah … you didn’t have to come all that way …
Don’t flatter yourself – I actually came over for a vacation and bingo you trip out on me. How long has it been? At least a couple of years, right?
No. It’s been five.
Yes. It has.
And she proceeds to prove it – incontrovertibly. Five years!
A stiff breeze would knock her over.
She won’t be alive for much longer.
How do I feel about that?
I always thought I hated her. I’ve hated her for most of my life. But now, it’s all old … ridiculous … isn’t it? I look at her, and I feel only compassion for someone who landed in the wrong family and couldn’t cope. The archetypal Dying Maiden.
Now you’ve been listening to her for a while, right? Does she sound like she’s lost the plot?
But my sisters want to put her away. And they have power of attorney. My mother thought that would be a good idea, as they’re here and I’m in America. Good theory.
Last night, as I’m driving home with them, and I want to scream in disgust, “Let me out!” … listening to my younger sister, with her rough barmaid voice: “Yeah, an oldies’ home’d be the best place for her for sure. And get rid of that bloody old house of hers. Cold hole. I have not a single happy memory associated with that place. Chop it up. Burn for all I care. Subdivide the ten acres, get what you can for it, sell it off to the highest bidder. Don’t give a shit.”
My other sister smiles in agreement.
They’ve always hated her too. I thought I was the only one.
But they didn’t escape. My mother has been supporting them for years. Rescuing them from failed romances, buying houses for them, paying for abortions and medical bills … but in return, she’s kept them close, bound by the stranglehold of obligation. She rescues them and they hate her for it.
All her old games. All theirs.
I got off the game board. 7000 miles is just the right distance away.
So, when do I get to go home?
Mother - you heard the OT – they need to make sure you’re not going home to a deathtrap. You’re not as steady as you were.
They’re not setting foot in my house!
I just want to see my beautiful things … and to … have a bath … in my own bath tub …
I hear you … you finish your coffee – I’m just going to the loo – be right back, ok?
Out in the hallway, I spy Joanne, the OT.
Joanne, do you have a moment?
Certainly. Want a cuppa? Come’n sit down.
The great Aussie cure-all, the cuppa.
No, I’m fine … Listen … about my mother …
And right there, in that ugly hospital tea room, I try to explain to this well meaning lady, the enigma of/ My Mother - her narcissism, her destructiveness, her selfishness, her failed attempts at loving us, her wounded courage … and her attachment to … beautiful … things … her treasure trove of rare antique cups & saucers.
And as I talk, I realize I’m explaining my own mother to myself as well. But this stranger … understands.
I just want her to have a chance, Jo.
Well I collect some cups’n saucers m’self.
(Quick indrawn breath or realization)
There’s your “in” with my mother! If you come over to look at her china, she can come home for the day, and you can suss out the house at the same time – tell me what you think!
By this time the doctor is also in on the conversation – a nice plump Indian lady, Dr Patel.
Ah well, you are taking on a big responsibility by taking her out of here for the day. She’s a very stubborn lady. What if she falls to the ground and refuses to come back? Because she must come back. She is still not well.
(Considering, then going for it)
I’ll take that risk! If she loses it, we’ll know she shouldn’t be going back to her house, ok? But if you’ll just give her this one chance …
And they do.
I don’t tell my sisters until after it’s a done deal. They are not happy. I suppose I should have consulted them. It was high handed of me.
They’ll have nothing to do with it and they’ll stay away for the day, in protest. Ok.
I go back to my mother and tell her the news. Her eyes shine. I introduce Joanne all over again, this time as “the china collector” and suddenly they’re best buds. The same lady she kicked out this morning. My Mother has the grace to be a little embarrassed.
Next day, I come back to the hospital, to escort her “home” with Joanne in the hospital car. It has been almost two weeks since my mother has been home.
Oh my God! It’s still here!
I know you’ll say I’m crazy, but I just had to check.
In her dementia, she’d been sure the hospital staff were all conspiring to steal her house.
She leaps out of the car, and this suddenly sprightly 82 year old RUNS up the front steps, then RUNS down again, then RUNS up again.
See! See! How many times do you want to see?
Then she races into her bathroom.
Oh my God! Look!
And right there, she jumps into the empty bath, blissfully lies down in it full length, jumps out again, on springs. Then in again, out again, in again, out again.
How many times do you want me to show you? Ten? Twenty? And then can I have my bath?
Joanne does the obligatory “china” tour, then leaves us for the day.
I’ll be back at 4pm, ok? Then back to Rehab.
This is the first one of those moments. Will she lose it?
Of course … I’ll be ready.
She bathes, & closets herself up in the luxury of her very own bathroom for over an hour. I resist the urge to go knock on her door to make sure she’s still alive … but I do creep up the carpeted stairs and put my ear to the door. She’s alive.
She makes coffee, serves it in her beautiful cups … By the end of the day we’re back teeth awash in coffee.
I’m also on tenterhooks, wondering if she’s going to fall, wondering if she’s going to lose it when it comes time to go back.
4pm. A long day. Here’s Joanne. Fish or cut bait time.
I prepare to go back to the hospital with her. I also prepare to overpower her if necessary.
But she turns to me, very simply.
No, no, no need to come back with me. Joanne and I are fine.
What a wonderful day! Thank you!
And she starts to cry.
I can never thank you enough. I know what you did for me today.
And calmly she walks down the steps, goes out into the garden to deadhead a daringly imperfect rose, before hopping into the passenger seat, docile as a lamb.
(to OT, urgent whisper)
Joanne … psst … what do you think?
Of the house? It’s lovely.
No, not the bloody house! My mother, back, IN the house. Is it safe do you think?
Oh, the house is a nightmare.
(STORYTELLER’S face falls)
But - we can’t wrap old people up in carpet and cotton wool, can we? This is where she’s happy. This is where she needs to be.
You did a good thing today. I hope your sisters think so too.
And with that she gets into the driver’s seat, putting on her seat belt. Mother already has hers on. She beckons me to her car window, and takes my hand. She holds Jo’s hand too.
I want to thank you both. I’ll remember this day for the rest of my life.
And with a cheery wave, they’re on their way. I brush away some tears. I’ll always remember my mother smiling and waving out the window as they disappear down her long, gracious driveway. Her eyes are alive again.
This … is a good day.
And I, too, will remember it for the rest of my life.
Let the theatre lights dim, sit back and enjoy. And please don't worry about correcting punctuation - everything is written this way for a reason! Please "watch" and "listen" to performance rather than get stuck on whether an ellipsis is legal or not, ok? ENJOY!Pays one point and 2 member cents.
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