The Lorna Doone Hour

by Laurie Woolever

Three Lorna Doone shortbread cookies, quite appetizing looking, golden and crumbly, on a grey formica counter
Mx. Granger, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

My mother loved pranks, gag gifts, puns. She had a favorite t-shirt, purchased for a dollar at a rummage sale, that said “Don’t touch my Tuts,” with ancient Egyptian iconography, strategically placed. When I taught her some piece of filthy slang, she’d pretend to be shocked, asking, “Where do you hear this stuff?!” but she’d be laughing, and I could tell that she was proud of me.

She spent the last few months of her life in a series of hospital rooms and nursing homes, after living for several decades with multiple sclerosis. She was diagnosed in 1965, at age 19, and the disease was invisible within her for about two decades before becoming more apparent and invasive, like a thicket of opportunistic knotweed slowly choking out a stream.

I called her one afternoon, on the landline telephone set next to her bed, in the nursing home where she’d just been settled. Open beds were hard to come by, because of COVID restrictions, and the institution she ended up in was not great by any metric, but it was the only place that could take her immediately upon discharge from her latest hospital stay.

“This place is awful,” she said. “They don’t have enough people working here, and the ones that’re here suck shit. They dress like tramps and they talk on their phones when they change my bedpan, if they even bother to come in at all. The other night a couple of them set off the fire alarm because they were smoking weed in the hallway. I’m lying in my own piss all night. I’m ready to die, if this is my life.”

It’s a paywall, but a small one

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