Traces of Paranoia

We moved back to Saskatchewan from Quebec in 1998 and I soon made the acquaintance of an older lady in Saskatoon. In time she became very dear to me, though she lives in another province now. Over the time we’ve been friends I’ve had lots of fun visits with her. We went out for coffee often and I helped her figure out various things.

You see, she’s what sociologists call “functionally illiterate.” Bank statements, bills, contracts, sales slips: she’s brought them to me and had me figure them out — until she moved away five years ago. She finds it about impossible to figure out her (direct-deposit) pension by looking at her bank statement. She can buy things, but has a hard time looking at the sales bill and figuring what she should have gotten for change. Also, she was often suspicious people were cheating her.

This spring she called me up one day, all alarmed because of the discrepancy in a purchase she’d made. The item cost $6.25 and only got back a dime and a nickel (15¢). It really bothered her to think that sales clerk had cheated her. I did a quick bit of math and reminded her of the 60¢ tax on her purchase, which would account for the difference. Ahh! She was happy again and we had a nice visit.

Concepts like health, nutrition, drugs and their use, all needed to be explained in the simplest terms. Different times I went to the doctor with her and translated. She didn’t ask him, because she didn’t want to appear dumb.

One day she told me her doctor had said she was borderline diabetic. “But how can a person be ‘borderline’ diabetic?” she asked me, somewhat annoyed with her doctor for that dumb diagnosis. “I figure it’s like being pregnant: either you are or you aren’t.”

I went for a simple illustration. “Your body’s pancreas, that makes insulin, is somewhat like a well. A well holds so-and-so much water, but when the well’s almost empty, there’s just a bit of water and the bottom is muddy. That’s borderline. When there’s no trace of water or even mud, we say the well’s gone dry.

“Our pancreas gland makes insulin as long as it can, but when it can’t keep up anymore, we’re on the borderline of having diabetes. When the gland stops producing insulin, we can’t digest sugar anymore. We’re diabetic and need to take pills or injections to make up for what our body can’t do.”

That made sense to her.

Before she moved, being almost eighty and forgetful, she was misplacing things, then was convinced they were moved or stolen. “Someone with a key, ” she claimed, “is coming into my apartment and taking things or moving stuff around.”

With her eyesight not being very good, she couldn’t see the normal wear-and-tear until something was quite worn. Then she’d say, “Look what someone did to my blanket. They frayed it somehow. It wasn’t like this before.” Sometimes the intruder would scatter a few things on the floor, just to annoy her.

She was convinced that “someone” was watching — that is, sitting beside a closed-circuit camera somewhere all day — to see whenever she went out. Then they’d come in and do mischief. She started hiding her precious things (she had nothing of any real value to a thief) like her many rings and watches into suitcases so they wouldn’t be stolen. Which made things even worse because she couldn’t remember which suitcase they were in.

I tried to be a helpful friend and hurried to the city several times to help her find important “lost or stolen” bank card, wallet, credit card, etc. Thankfully they’ve always turned up — in her apartment. I’ve helped her replace credit cards when she’s lost them. I’ve tried to be patient and be there (if I could) when she needed help or transportation, even though it meant an hour-long trip to town.

She bought a motion sensor camera to catch the culprit but, though it’s been set to take a picture every minute, saw no trace of the culprit on her film chip. I tried to convince her that people have more to do with their lives than sit and watch her apartment on closed circuit camera all day, but one thing I’ve learned over the years: you can’t reason with paranoia. Fear doesn’t respond to common sense.

She extracted a trace of criticism from what I said, got angry with me for not being supportive, and wouldn’t speak to me for a couple of months.

I was happy for her when, with the help of her children, she moved to a seniors assisted-living apartment in another city and her intruder woes faded away. I do miss her — just not THAT part of her nature.

Fandango’s prompt today: TRACE

Visiting a Favourite Site

Fandango’s prompt word: ROUTINE

While my husband and I are enjoying a relatively normal day at home, today’s a break from routine for most of the folks here in Canada: Thanksgiving Day. A holiday for most working people at least, and for many it’s a time to gather with family and gobble turkey, mashed potatoes, veggies and pumpkin pie. I think there’s usually a play-off football game happening somewhere as well.

For me it’s been a day to visit one of my favourite sites, Troutswirl, the Haiku Foundation’s blog. I was going through an older post where poets shared verses about the sights seen in meadow and field. Here’s the link, if you’d like to take a look.

Which has inspired me to write my own verse, suitable for this post-harvest season we’re in:
out-of-work scarecrow
fallen in the wind
shredded by young coons

This is also the day I can’t get proper responses from WordPress on my desk computor. I can’t fathom what ails it, so I’m working totally on my laptop. One issue here: the keyboard is bilingual — and the spell check is all francais. It’s highlighting almost every word I type as a spelling error. 😦

The Word of the Day challenge is FATHOM, a very useful word. For some time now I’ve been trying to fathom why I get into obssessing about small issues. (Was I always? Is it old age settling in — or the result of chemo?) Molehills so soon become mountains.

This prompt gives me a new senryu:
sounding the issue
I fathom the wrinkles
of my obssession

Maybe I’ll print this off and tack it on the fridge. 😉 I’d like to be more aware of when I’m sliding down that slope and catch myself, learn to skip over the issue. Procrastination should come in very handy here, right? Worry about it later.

For over thirty years I’ve had a friend with mental health issues (paranoia) and talk about obssessing! A look from someone — always interpreted as negative — can set her off on a deep examination of how hateful that person — and everyone else in the world — feels toward her. She could spend an hour on the phone with me, analyzing all her interactions with that person.

I’ve discovered that you can’t fight fire with fire. You can’t reason with obessession, nor counteract it with positive thinking. “Try and look on the bright side” has never worked for her. Likewise the commonsense, “Most people don’t even know you, never mind hate you,” goes nowhere. I’ve learned to deflect her thinking into a different avenue altogether, by reminding her that someday the troubles of this life will be over and we’ll be in that better world where love and peace govern everyone’s heart. She starts thinking down that line and her fears over today’s evil plotters shrink to a more manageable level.

I looked outside a few minutes ago and saw big white flakes coming down. A quick flash of winter again. Well, we can be thankful that our weather is changeable rather than boring, and we’re not subject to hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis.

The Waiting Room

Typical hospital waiting room,
the air heavy with hope and fear.
Sighs in unison; murmuring voices
all speak a common language.

Eyes softened to not embarrass
anyone’s stream of tears;
ears tuned to hear a name called,
praying their own comes soon.

Kin anxious for the verdict,
improvement or decline,
life or death; in this commune
everyone’s related.

The Missing Girl

I wrote this story a couple of weeks ago with another prompt in mind but decided to adapt it a bit and post it in response to this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. (Thanks again, Joshua for the prompt image.) This is one of those “leaves you hanging” stories.

I trust my Fellow Fiction writers and our long-suffering moderator, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, will bear with a second response. Mille mercis to Rochelle for taking much time and effort in her kind replies to all our stories. Check out her blog, Addicted to Purple, for more info about the group.

I’m going to be “away” for awhile. Last night I went through my DropBox trying to line up the chapters of my next book — and feeling overwhelmed. I need to established some kind of proper filing system for all my writings; with my memory, saving by title alone gives chaos! So I’m going to spend some time sorting out files, merging blogs, and working on my next book.

THE MISSING GIRL

Genre: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
………………………………………………………………………………………

RCMP Detective Wahl studied the photo. “How old?”

“Twelve. Hanging out with friends; headed home alone. She never made it.”

“No suspicious friends, family blowup, school bullying, boyfriend breakup?”

“No evidence of. House-to-house check in the area turned up no clues. Third day already, so we’re asking for your involvement. We’re thinking abduction now.”

Wahl frowned. “A twelve year old would fight back. In broad daylight someone should have seen or heard something.”

“What’s this?” Sgt Merriott turned to his flashing monitor. “Some teens messing around the old Millworths factory found a girl’s body.”

“No winners now. Let’s go.”

Hold Still!

by Margaret Penner Toews

Wee little hummingbird, caught in a wire,
Halt, little bird, or your wings will tire:
In your little-bird world your plight is dire!
Hold still, wee bird, hold still!

Wee little hummer, don’t flail, don’t fight!
If you’d stop your frenzy you’d be all right.
It’s the flailing that causes your awful plight.
Hold still, little bird, hold still.

Is your wee little scream a little bird prayer?
How can I tell you, wee bird, I care?
You pause at last and numbly stare.
Don’t be afraid! Hold still.

Spent, despairing, you rest your wing.
I reach. I touch. What a fragile thing,
The delicate body quivering,
A hummingbird, holding still!

In my palm you tarry a little bit,
Then shake, and away like a breath you flit.
I stand astonied at the thought of it…
A hummingbird, holding still!

How tiny the feather you left behind!
…And then of a sudden there comes to mind
The truth God wanted for me to find:
“Hold still, my child, hold still.

“Stop your frenzy and rest in Me.
It’s the flailing that hurts you, don’t you see?
Whate’er your predicament, trust in Me.
Hold still, my child, hold still.”

.
From her book FIRST A FIRE
© 1993 by Margaret Penner Toews