I had gone to her room to check on her, after my girlfriend Pauline, had remarked on the number of pills she had been taking. It is a good job I did. If I had not done so, or if Pauline had not mentioned the pill taking, it is an absolute certainty that my mum would have frozen to death on that bleak winters night, well over forty years ago.
It says a lot about my mothers personality that I had not noticed anything amiss earlier. She often behaved eccentrically. It strikes me also, that she only attempted suicide when we were there to find her. But still, it was a risky strategy if it was just a call for help, and certainly not the actions of someone in their right mind.
|A painting of a mad woman by Theodore Gericault.|
I was so glad that Pauline was there. She was able to stay with mum, while I made the long trek through the wind and snow, to the nearest phone box. Where somehow, despite my frozen fingers, I managed to find the Doctors number in the directory. He says he will come as soon as he can, and tells me to call an ambulance.
By the time I arrived back at the house, mum had recovered enough to become nasty and threatening. Pauline was extremely frightened of her, and I did not recognise this wild woman as my mother. Her eyes were black with hatred and rage, and she seemed intent on getting back out into the snow. As I struggled to hold on to her and calm her down, I hoped that the Doctor or the ambulance would not be too long. She had become extremely strong. It was obvious that she was completely mad.
The rest of that night is a blurred memory. All I do know is that mum was sedated and taken away in the ambulance, and I was asked to sign a paper sectioning her under the mental health act.
|Electric shock treatment.|
A few days later I go to visit her in the mental hospital. She is sitting up in bed when I arrive. As I approach she starts to clap her hands like an excited little girl, "have you come to see me?" she asks.
"How are you feeling mum?"
She stops clapping, and looks at me suspiciously, "you're not a real Doctor."
"Mum, it's me, John."
She holds a finger to her lips, "shush," she whispers. She takes two hair clips from the bedside locker, and carefully attaches one to each of her ear lobes, "Aerials," she says conspiratorially, glancing around, "I can hear everything they are saying."
"Is there anything you want me to bring you, mum?"
She looks back at me blankly, through dull black eyes, as she carefully adjusts the hair clips, so that they are now attached to the tops of her ears. "You can't be too careful." she tells me.