We stopped taking her to the emergency a long time ago. She would complain of chest pains and my middle sister would rush her off to the hospital. She would separately call me and my oldest sister to take her, and we would both show up at the same time. The biggest problem was that I had to fly in from out of town. But she did not care. She said that wanted a backup in case one did not show. She called us so much and for so many false alarms, that we stopped coming. So, she began to call the neighbors. Eventually, they figured it out. Next she had to call (and pay) other, not so close, friends and neighbors. You see, my mother is a hypochondriac.
She has been that way for years. I suppose it stemmed from her childhood. She had been a sickly child and was the baby of the family. That combination garnered her so much positive attention that she came to believe that being sick was a good thing. I am not saying that my mother has not had her issues, but more so, she has always had a very low threshold for pain and a very high expectation for sympathy, or empathy, or whatever high she seems to be getting from the attention.
Primarily, the complaint was about these constantly recurring chest pains that seemed to move all around her heart. And, yet, she was always given a clean bill of health. At least that is all that she would relay back to us. Then finally one day she let the cat out of the bag. I asked her why had she had started taking the cheese off of her sandwiches for the last couple of years. Her response floored me. She took another swig of her buttermilk and said, “The doctor told me that I need to stay away from cheese and milk.” I was livid. All these years of running to the hospital she never told us what it was. The pains in her chest were none other than gas bubbles caused by the intolerance to lactose – which, by the way, she was refusing to give up. “Dammit, I got to eat something!” was her only response. So she cut out cheese slices, but nothing else.
Well, it has been over 21 years since the diagnosis and she is now eighty-one. She really does have a host of ailments. And when asked how she is doing, she will NEVER say fine, but, instead will drop her voice to sound weak and then start in on a litany of complaints. My biggest fear is that we will miss something important because the years and years of being the "Boy Who Cried Wolf” has made us deaf to her pleas. Instead, we let her go on for a moment and then sigh and ask, “What did you eat or drink today?” And her response, “Shit, it ain’t always the milk! I’m just gonna to have to call 911 myself. I need to go to the emergency!”