Nanna used to go to the hospital on a fairly regular basis, as she frequently broke bones after stumbling over dogs or yard sale bargains or whatever it was she kept all over her floor. Everyone agreed that she would be much safer in a nursing home, but she refused to consider it. She liked living in her big fancy house, even if it meant occasional trips to the hospital after falls and beauty-parlor car crashes.
This might have been an acceptable choice if Nanna were better at handling hospitals, but she is not. She is prone to what I believe is technically called “institutional dementia.” A more accurate term would be “raving lunacy,” complete with hallucinations and accusations that the nurses are trying to kill her. The longer she stays in the hospital, the worse it gets. We learned that it was best to get her out of there ASAP, no matter how serious the injury or how many doctors wanted her to stay for another two weeks.
Last time I went to visit her there, she was so wild to get out of the room that we loaded her into a wheelchair and I rolled her through the halls and out into an attached courtyard. It was very pleasant, full of sunshine and flower beds and wind chimes, so I asked her if she’d like to sit out there for a while.
“Oh, no,” she said at once. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
She looked at me like I was the crazy one, and explained matter-of-factly, “If we stay here, someone’s going to kill us.”
I scanned the bushes for assassins, perhaps leaping from the shrubbery with daggers poised to strike, but none were forthcoming. “I don’t think anyone’s going to kill us out here, Nanna. Looks pretty safe to me.”
“Honey,” she said patiently, “you are an intelligent girl but you just don’t understand. Someone is going to kill us out here!”
Never argue with a crazy person. You just can’t win. So we left the sheltered courtyard and went out on the street, where it was windy and freezing, but Nanna didn’t want to go back to her room. Eventually, though, she got cold enough that she agreed we could go inside the next building we saw, which happened to be the exact same building we had just left, although I judged it best not to enlighten her on that point.
Before I left Nanna saw me talking to one of the doctors and was ever after convinced that he was my boyfriend, no matter how many times I denied it. She told all her visitors that she had met my boyfriend, and as soon as they left they would call me to ask if I was out of my mind. I explained to them that Nanna was insane and of course I had kept my boyfriend at a safe distance.
Nanna refused to let it go, though, and later confided to my aunt that she was pretty sure my boyfriend was cheating on me because she saw him talking to other women all the time. My aunt tried to explain to her that it was just a doctor talking to some nurses, but she would have none of it.
When she actually did meet my boyfriend a few months later, her first question was, “What happened to the other one?”
She sounded disappointed. I think she had hoped I was going to marry the cheating doctor and enjoy the fruits of a loveless but lucrative marriage (alimony, maybe?). I should mention that the only relationship advice she has ever given me is for enough money, you can fall in love with anyone.