The keys to life

I was in that lovely snoozey world, you know that feeling? When you know you are definitely awake but life hasn’t settled in on you, you are warm, unthinking, comfortable… and then the phone rings!

Anyone reading this who has sick/elderly parents, or children, knows the sinking feeling when the phone rings earlier than normal. Looking at the display I could see it was mum. That was a bit of a relief as although it would not be good, it was unlikely to be really bad either as she is the fitter of our two parents.

After 4-5 minutes of establishing who she was speaking to and whether she had actually intended to call she announced that she had locked herself into the house. In please note, not out of the house.

Seems her keys had disappeared and she had been looking for them on and off all night. She was sure she had her shower the night before and then the keys, kept in a bag to avoid loss, were suddenly not in the cupboard where she keeps the bag.

She was beginning to get very agitated so I persuaded her to have a cup of tea, relax and I would call her back in 30 minutes. Maybe by then she would remember where the keys were.

I texted my sister for ideas of where to look, knowing she would be up even though it was 7am and she was on holiday. I then went and did a 20-minute meditation to give me strength for the coming morning, as it turned out it needed to sustain me the whole day!

Mum had indeed calmed down when I called back but the minute the question of the keys came up so did her agitation levels. I started to run through all the places she might have put them.

I started with the cupboard in the sideboard. An extremely irritated voice said “I am looking there now. Can’t you tell I have my head in the cupboard? That noise is the popping of the bubble wrap I put the bag behind but it’s not there.”

The kitchen drawer I suggested. “Oh, let’s look there, no, I haven’t looked there.” Lots of rummaging noises. “No. not there, but I have found the pen I lost.”

I was about to suggest the fridge but hesitated. Behind your cushion on the chair, a favourite place for lost items in the past. “No, not there, anyway I have looked there I’m not stupid!”

And so it when on through most of the rooms and all of the shelves, cupboards and surfaces including a quick trip to the garage which demonstrated that mum was not actually locked in but could get out into the garden via the back door.

Having learnt this I suggested she spend the day at home, it being extremely cold anyway. The dog would be fine with using the garden for one day and when her carer returned at the end of the day we would ask her to look for the keys.

“Oh yes”, said mum, “she will find them, she found my mobile last week.” I promised to call periodically to check she was ok.

By this time it was 10.30am so I called dad who announced he was in ‘a right old state’. Seems mum had called him about the keys asking if he had them or knew where she had put them.

How he was supposed to know I have no idea given they haven’t lived together for a year! The call must have been about 6.30am. Poor man, he doesn’t get up too early these days so he would have been woken by that call. He said he felt he should go and help mum but just did not have the strength to get the bus.

I gave him lots of reassurance, said I would call him periodically to let him know how it was all going but on no account should he get the bus.

The phone rang again as soon as I put it down from dad. It was mum, or at least it was her phone. I could hear her having a conversation with the son of the neighbour, she seemed to be thanking him for finding the keys. She clearly did not know she had called me and no amount of shouting down the phone got anyone’s attention.

I decided to call her back. That took the next 6 hours! The phone just rang and rang. I ended up calling the neighbour, the one with the son, who not very helpfully informed me that if my mother wanted to speak to me she would pick up the phone.

She, the neighbour, knew mum was ok because they had helped her get a locksmith after mum had locked herself out.

Why a lock smith? I asked. “She was locked out!” the grumpy lady replied. “We sorted her out. She will call you when she wants to speak to you.” At that the phone was put down on me!

Now I was confused and rather upset too. In between all this I had been trying to reassure dad who oscillated between extreme upset, a sense of powerlessness and anger that mum had us all worried and hadn’t even bothered to call to tell us what was going on.

Eventually at about 6.30pm I got through to her. She was rather confused. It seems the neighbour had called a locksmith because mum said she was locked out. True, she had gone out into the garden and shut the front door but the back door was probably open although she was not prepared to entertain that idea. “What a stupid suggestion when I have just spent £120.”

Furthermore, the neighbour’s son walked into the sitting room and next to her chair, the one with the hiding cushion, he found the bag! Seems she hadn’t seen it there even though she had sat in the chair to have her cup of tea early that morning. The bag, she said, is almost the same colour as the table it was leaning against. Really?

I never could put the time frames together and after a while the story just got more confused but somewhere in all of this, mum had taken a trip to town. It hadn’t occurred to her to call me or dad.

“Well, you were calling me every half hour which was very nice of you but I didn’t want you to have to do that all day so I went out.” Leaving me to continue calling an unanswered phone every half hour!

“Gawd help us!”, as my sister would say!