Matty informed me that she had what she believed was a mini-stroke on Thursday. "I've had one before," she informed me. I'd taken Matty on her weekly outing to Tescos on Thursday evening and she never mentioned the mini-stroke. She did say that her wrists were very sore. I resolved to give her plenty of help whilst shopping. We started off at magazines, My Weekly and The People's Friend. I glanced quickly at the books then caught myself on, remembering the height of my 'to read' pile. Matty was wandering up the household goods aisle. I tried to keep her in sight. She darted off, then I lost her. I searched up and down the aisles and found that she'd backtracked. I waited for her then became distracted by the office supplies. It was only for a few moments but when I turned round she'd disappeared. Up and down the aisles I went before bumping into her in fruit and veg. I swear she was trying to shake me off. "Wait here," says I, "I'm going to get some onions." I was quick as I could be but of course she hadn't waited. She never, never does. I had another searching match for her with no success and after throwing a few bits in my trolley I decided to call it an evening and tried to catch her before she got to checkout. She'd got there before me and smiled triumphantly as she took the last item out of her trolley. At least I was able to pack for her while she went off for a scratch card. I'd exhausted myself looking for her and didn't get a quarter of the things I needed but, thanks be, I did get the gin. In the car she winced at the soreness of her wrists but never mentioned the mini-stroke. We talked about an appointment with her GP to discuss pain relief.
On Friday I phoned her from work and she said she wasn't feeling that well so I went to visit her during my lunch break and made up a bed for her and put together a rhubarb crumble. She was expecting Ganching for the weekend. She seemed perky enough. No mention of the mini-stroke.
On Saturday I went to the car boot sale at Dunsilly and was sitting in Matty's at eight o'clock. Ganching had to pick up a hire car so I said I'd take Matty to Randalstown for a coffee. She'd already had her usual toast and tea breakfast. She was keen as mustard and we went to the Forge and had Ulster Frys. Matty ate everything except a tiny bit of bacon and pronounced it very enjoyable. I wanted to go to the charity shop to see if they'd sold any of their high-priced books. They all seemed to be there, the book on the 19th century religious revival (big chapter on Kells & Connor, 55 pounds) and the book on Winston Churchill (12.50) , and the Arthur Grimble (17.50) and one at 75 quid, damme if I can remember what that was, but it was in very middling condition. Matty complained of not feeling great while she was there so we didn't stay long. When we got home I made a cuppa and she told me about the mini-stroke.
When I got home I looked up mini-strokes on the internet and I really don't think she has had one. There are no obvious symptoms and apart from her complaining, which is usual, she seemed well enough, with a good appetite, talking normally, no real difference in her movements or appearance.
If a doctor in a hospital once told her that she had suffered a mini-stroke I would think that he/she may have been (a) talking shite, (b) she didn't hear them properly, (c) she imagined it, (d) he/she was thinking of the woman in the next bed or (e) she really had one.
But Matty is a panicker when it comes to her health. Her GP once told her, maybe 25 years ago, after she presented him with a host of vague symptoms, that he was going to test her for Multiple Sclerosis. She told me that she fully expected she'd end up in a wheelchair. I have other stories like that but I'm not going to tell them right now.
I'll never forget how upset I felt when I heard that. Then I felt angry that she upset me because she didn't have MS, no wheelchair was necessary. Matty, when she's in good enough form, is a great woman. She has many wonderful qualities and I'm glad she is my mother. I love her. I do not love her preoccupation with illness and I feel that it has blighted her life. But now that she is over 80 and she does have angina and she does have painful arthritis and thyroid problems and I don't know how I should deal with her. I try to be supportive and I worry about her lots. But if I'm honest, I have to say that I find her never-ending preoccupation with illness hard to handle. I used to try all kinds of strategies when we were both younger such as ignoring her, jollying her along (I still use that one), reasoning with her, getting cross with her but now she is very old I have to find new strategies.
What do you do with a mum who has had hypochondriac tendencies all her life and then she gets really old and she does have health issues? Maybe there's a simple answer. I've got a feeling somebody out there might have it.
We are going to the doctor tomorrow and I'm going in with her. That's a start.