It was a Sunday afternoon, and Mrs. Davis’s three grown children came to visit her at the retirement home. They left their own families at home this time and were seated in their favorite section of the meeting room, on the left side closest to the windows. Mrs. Davis sat in the green recliner that reminded her of one she and Mr. Davis had owned many years prior, and her two girls sat to her left while her son was to her right. Across the room an old man sat in a chair snoring loudly as a football game played on the TV in front of him.
“Would you listen to him!” Mrs. Davis huffed. “Every day it’s the same thing. He comes to this room to watch his show, and he goes to sleep as soon as his head hits the back of the chair!”
“Sounds like my husband,” her oldest daughter, Hannah Grace, said out the side of her mouth.
“Sounds like me!” Chloe, her youngest, laughed. Chloe had a new baby, and these visits were hard for her. Her emotions were out-of-control anyway, and seeing her mother so different than the mother she knew for all these years was especially difficult. Today was different, though.
Mrs. Davis was having a good day, and her children were enjoying the chance to talk to their mother while she was more herself. They laughed a little as Mrs. Davis gave them the scoop on the other inhabitants of Sunny Valley, how Mr. Peterson threatened to rent a separate room for himself after his wife told him to lay off the chocolate syrup at the ice cream social, how she and Ms. Lowery went for a walk through the garden yesterday with her favorite nurse Elizabeth, how she was so grateful for her three children who never failed to visit.
The sun streamed through the windows behind Mrs. Davis, and Caleb, her son, followed with his eyes the path of dust dancing in the light beam from his mother’s shoulder back to the window.
“Do we need to close the blinds, son?” Mrs. Davis asked catching Caleb’s glance.
“Oh, no, Mom. I’m fine,” he assured her.
“I enjoy the warmth from the sun, if I do say so myself,” she said, uncrossing and recrossing her legs at the ankles.
The girls smiled as they look at their mother, so alert and unusually amiable on this particular day.
“Kids, I need to tell you something.”
Mrs. Davis’s sense of urgency caused all the kids to lean forward.
Hannah Grace uncrossed her legs and leaned forward, placing a gentle hand on her mother’s knee.
“What is it, Mom? ” she asked as she furrowed her brow.
“I want you all to know something, and I’ve been waiting to tell you until we were alone.”
“Well, what is it, Mom?” Caleb asked, very concerned. Caleb was the worrier of the group, especially concerning his mother. He didn’t enjoy the suspense.
“I know you all must wonder if you’re going to end up like me someday when you’re older…”
“Oh, Mom, don’t worry about that,” Caleb sat up, waving off her concern. He wouldn’t have his mother feeling any guilt for her condition or the worry that it may cause them.
“…let me finish, dear,” she continued. “You don’t need to worry,” she began, “because you won’t, at least you shouldn’t end up like me.”
The children were silent waiting for their mother to finish.
“This condition isn’t hereditary,” she continued.
The children all stole quick glances at one another. They had done their research, talked to the doctors; they knew the odds of them getting their mother’s condition when they were older were slightly increased due to their mother having it.
“You see,” she went on, “you won’t inherit what I have because you gave it to me.”
“What?” Chloe asked, confused by this assertion from her mother.
“You did this to me,” replied Mrs. Davis, looking right at Chloe to answer her question. “You and your brother and sister made me crazy.”
“Oh, Mom!” Hannah Grace sighed, rolling her eyes.
“Here we go!” Caleb exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air.
Chloe’s lower lip began to tremble.
“I can tell you the exact day,” the crazy old bat went on with her story. I was trying to make Amish Friendship Bread. It was my turn to bring a snack to Bible Study. I had the starter mix on the counter. I had to use the bathroom–heaven forbid!–and I was in the bathroom for 33.3 seconds!“
She had begun to speak louder now, spacing her words more carefully for effect.
“I heard yelling, and I cracked the door to see what was happening. Hannah Grace was running full speed toward the bathroom door”–she paused to turn toward Hannah Grace and then continued–“carrying the open bag of starter. She obviously smelled the sugar. Caleb was running after her in pursuit of the bag.”
At this point in the story, Caleb began to shake his head, unclear as to where his mother was going with this story but not sure that he wanted to hear the end.
“Caleb, you always had to be the little informant. I’m surprised you didn’t go to work for the FBI!” She changed positions to stare at her son who looked back at her with a straight face.
“As Hannah Grace was fleeing from you, she left a trail of starter running from the kitchen to the bathroom, somehow even getting the bread starter on the walls!”
“Mom, I’m sure I spilled lots of things. My kids spill lots of things. How in the world could this be the cause of your condition?” Hannah Grace inquired, her shoulders moving up to her ears.
“I’m not yet finished.” The crazy old bat emphasized each word.
“Hannah Grace, I gave you a paper towel to begin cleaning up the mess you made while I tried to get back to the dinner I was making. What was I making? I can’t remember…it’s not important…”
“As if any of this is important?” Chloe asked under her breath.
“I saw you were doing a terrible job, so I grabbed the paper towel from you so I could clean the mess myself. Chloe, you, of course, woke up from your nap because it was the most inopportune time, and you were crying. I didn’t want you to get in the mess, so I tried to clean faster. Then, I heard the dinner sizzling, so I went back to the stove to check on it. I still had the paper towel in one hand as I was stirring with the other, and the next thing I knew, the paper towel was on fire! On fire, I say!
“I ran to the sink, the towel aflame, and I turned the water on as quickly as I could. As the water began to put out the fire, sparks flew up in the air and floated down on my hair. My hair!” She shrieks. “What could I do? What else could I do? I wasn’t going to let my whole head go up in flames! So I began banging my head, beating my own head with my hands like a stinkin’ chimpanzee! I was reduced to a chimpanzee!” she shouted.
The man who had been snoring across the room gave a loud snort and sat up sharply.
“And I’m sure I gave myself brain damage as a result of the incident,” Mrs. Davis said, her voice lowered, as she sat up primly and properly in the chair.
Mrs. Davis’s three children looked at each other, and then their mother, not sure of what to say next.
“Well, now, kids, what do you have planned for the rest of your Sunday?” she asked after a moment.
The rest of the afternoon visit was spent amidst one-word answers and somber faces until Caleb finally ended the visit.
“I love you, Mom,” he said getting up and giving his mother a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll see you next Sunday with the kids.”
“I’ll look forward to it, dear,” Mrs. Davis answered with a smile.
Chloe and Hannah Grace followed their brother, hugging and kissing their mother, squeezing her hand before letting go and walking away. The three siblings spoke quietly as they made their way to the door letting them out into the fall breeze under a beautiful blue sky.
“Mom certainly has a way with words, doesn’t she?” Chloe offered to the group.
“I’m always amazed at how quickly she can make me feel guilty,” Hannah Grace admitted.
Caleb stopped and looked at his sisters.
“Well, today’s visit taught me one thing. Apparently Mom was crazy a whole lot earlier than we realized.”
The three siblings continued walking, three bodies in a line, until they reached their cars and drove home.
For more encounters with “The Crazy Old Bat,” click here.