The Unwelcome Visitor

Ginny called today. I should lay out the back story first. It begins about three years ago. She had a young woman named Carly as a next-door neighbor. Carly had a boyfriend who often stayed with her. Apparently, they would occasionally play music late at night which woke her up. Since sleep is a huge issue with Ginny, this was a problem. If she woke after one hour of sleep, she was awake for the night.

She banged on the shared wall a handful of times to let them know to turn it down. Once, someone banged back. That response threw an 84-year-old woman quickly back into bed, terrified.

She ended up reporting the matter with the management company. I’m not sure of the details, I remember there were politics in the apartment building at that time regarding owners and tenants and I think this was partly the reason why the company and the board somehow got the neighbor to move to another unit. But I think that Ginny’s report influenced that move.

So Ginny begins “I didn’t want to tell you about this because you would worry, but in the past couple of weeks, someone has knocked on my front door late at night when I’m in bed.”

She continued. “Then, three nights ago, I heard a knock again. But this time, it was on my bedroom door.”

“That is really scary mom, but how and why would someone get into your apartment and then just knock on your bedroom door?” I ask politely. Clearly, this was real for her.

“Well, I think that Carly has a key to my apartment and gave it to her boyfriend. I think he got in and stayed about a half hour and left” she replied.

“Where is this coming from?” I’m thinking.

Apparently, mom finally gets enough courage to open her bedroom door and walk out to the front door with her cane. She says she KNOWS she locked it before she went to bed, and she found it unlocked.

I listened.

“Mom, I believe that you believe this happened. And maybe it did. (No damn way). But you have to look at the facts too. First, how did a neighbor get a hold of your key? Second, why would she bother, after three years, of returning to her old floor to bother an elderly woman?”

“Because she’s vicious. And there are ways to get copies of keys” was her stunning reply.

Hailey had already heard the story as well and had tried this approach.

“Mom, remember a couple of months ago when you were POSITIVE I had spent the night at your place? You were sure because there was a bowl of cereal on the table and there was a towel that was not quite in the right position in the bathroom. Well, I can guarantee you that I wasn’t there. I think that sometimes you have vivid dreams and when you wake, it is understandable that you can’t process the difference between the truth and the dream.”

“I was awake. This wasn’t a dream” was her cut and dry response.

I tried a different approach even though I agree with the dream theory.

“Mom, I admire you. You are almost 88 years old and choose to live independently. I honestly don’t think I will be doing that at your age.  By 87, I’ll be in independent living because I don’t want to have to worry about possible break-ins. I’ll want to feel safe. I’ll want to know that there is professional staff that is a phone call away.”

I didn’t really know what to say. There is no way I am convincing her it didn’t happen. So, I thought I’d plant a seed for the future.

“Well, I don’t want to have anything to do with that. Nursing homes are understaffed and they don’t always respond to you right away” she quickly replied (she had a point, but there was a bigger picture here.)

“OK” I started.

“So you aren’t interested at this point in moving. There just may come a time though when you measure the fear you feel now against living somewhere where you feel safe 24 hours a day. You won’t lose anymore sleep waiting for it to happen again.”

I add “I suppose we could change your locks to make you feel safer.”

Thinking about the locks I suddenly say “Hey, wait a minute. Your door has two locks. The two locks use two different keys. If the odds are already low that Carly has a key to your home, she would actually have to have two keys to your home to have this incident happen. And in my opinion, that’s like winning the lottery. The odds are not even close.”

“Well, I try to lock the lower lock but it can be slippery. I’m not always sure it’s locked. Maybe we should change the locks.”

Ginny is stubborn and has an answer for everything. E.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. Every fiber in her has always dictated “I am right. I know better than you.” If it was tough to reason with her when she was younger, it’s impossible now. She is resolute in her beliefs.

“Well, don’t call the management company” I throw in.

“If you think you want your locks changed, your two son-in-laws can handle that without involving them.”

“But they were good before about knowing how to handle Carly” is her curt reply.

I’m thinking that if she starts calling up the management company demanding locks be changed or evicting Carly for aiding a break-in, they are not going to renew her lease. 

I hang up and sit quietly. Ginny has never exhibited this unusual behavior. Is it a one-time occurrence? Is this the first sign of dementia? Is confusion or mixing up dreams and reality common? Is there a name for this unwelcome visitor?  

I’m worried about how much longer she can live on her own, her opinion on “assisted” living and where she could move that is affordable. What do we have ahead of us?


  1. That was a powerful write-up delivered with much compassion. I truly hope your mother finds peace and comes to realize this is not real.


  2. Thank you for that kind thought V. There’s not a lot of hope that it will reverse with age, but she still has more clear days than not. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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