Monday, May 2, 2011

More Midge

My visit with Midge the other day got off to a promising start. She broke into a huge grin, causing a nearby nurse to remark, "You sure brought a smile to her face!" I nodded happily, thinking myself the perfect Hospice volunteer. Until I looked closer, and noticed that Midge was not in fact smiling, but laughing maniacally.

It went downhill from there. I soon became acquainted with Midge's imaginary friend, seated next to her and wearing an identical red shirt ("because they're the style these days," Midge informed me). Our conversation settled into a pattern: Midge would ask a question or make a comment, I would respond, then she would repeat the conversation to her imaginary friend, except that instead of repeating what I'd actually said, she'd twist my words around to make me sound mean. Examples:

Midge: Why is that woman in a wheelchair? If I couldn't walk, I would never let someone push me in a wheelchair. [Note that Midge was seated in a wheelchair as she said this.]
Me: I'm not sure. Maybe she's sick.
Midge [to imaginary friend]: I asked her why that woman is in a wheelchair, and she said she didn't care.

A few minutes later...
Midge [leaning close toward me]: You're a beautiful girl.
Me: Thank you!
Midge [to imaginary friend]: I told her she's a beautiful girl, and she said she KNOWS.

And then, after another pause...
Midge: Do you have a date?
Me: Yes! [thinking, maybe we are getting to a more positive topic of conversation...]
Midge: You're far too young to have a date! [Turns to imaginary friend]; I wonder, does her mother even know she's here??

At this point Midge started to laugh again, this time so hard and with such utter abandon that I wondered if she was crying. When I ascertained that she was, in fact, laughing, I wondered what to do. My policy is to leave if either a) she seems to be getting no pleasure out of my visit, or b) she's so mean it makes me feel bad. However, I wasn't totally sure on either point. Was her laughing totally maniacal, or was there a hint of pleasure in it, too? Was she making me feel bad, or was she just frustrated that she couldn't hear what I was saying?

Midge made up my mind for me by announcing that she was tired and wanted a nap. With a small sigh of relief, I patted her hand and headed for the elevator.

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