The fog of narcotics

I heard from home that Aunt Olla was in a tizzy so I called her to find out what was up. 

At first, she couldn't hear me at all. She is awaiting a new hearing aid, but usually she can talk on the phone without difficulty. This was new. Eventually, she said "call me back and see if we get a better connection." 

I did. 

"Wow, this is so much better," she said. "That other ear is no good." She had been trying to hear me out of her deaf right ear. So, we got that settled. 

Aunt Olla has been on a narcotic for the severe pain caused by a pinched nerve in her leg. I was on the same narcotic after tonsil removal this summer, and I went off of it due to the horrific effects on my mood. So, I understand what Aunt Olla is going through. And I take some of the blame, because before I left, I went through a bunch of her pictures. Included were pictures of an old boyfriend, Joseph, who Olla claimed was just a friend, a former student who escorted her to dances. 

Under narcotics, however, Joseph has taken on new meaning to Olla. She is beseiged by guilt for breaking up with him right before he left to fight in World War II. She is convinced that his surviving relatives have arrived from the East Coast, taken the staff of the Hilton hostage, and are fixing to shoot her. 

I tried some reason: "But Olla, that was 75 years ago!"

"I know, can you imagine hanging on to a grudge that long?" 

"They're all dead!" I said, but that didn't register. 

I tried to change the topic, and told her about my nice glass cottage here in Tucson. 

"A black cottage? What in the world." 

No, I said a glass cottage.

"Spell it," she said. 


"Oh, a grass cottage!" Olla said. "That sounds pretty primitive." 

"But if that's what you like, I guess that's okay!" 


Joseph's vengeful family came up again and again. I tried to assure her that things would be okay, but to no avail. 

"All of the staff are on my side," she said. They are letting her eat in her room for the time being, at least until the hostage crisis is resolved. 

It was 5 p.m. on Friday night, so I didn't have a chance to call the staff. I have no idea how to resolve the situation but wonder if perhaps easing her off the narcotics for a while will give her a chance to reset to her normal, easy-going self. If the pain is too much, she can go back on, having perhaps gotten out of this horrific Joseph rut. 

Sister Tracie is on the scene, and her visits help a lot. 

Signs of Olla's old self appeared. "I am lucky--most people my age aren't lining up for supper anywhere!" 

I said that's right, most people your age are pushing up daisies. 

That got a laugh. 

"Thanks, I needed the compliment," Olla said. 

My sympathies to the Hilton staff going through this crisis. They are marvelous, as always. And let's hope everything settles down in a hurry. 

It is heartbreaking to see a 102-year old suffer, even moreso from a distance.