My Mother's Protector
In the fall of 2003 my mother, who was 81 at the time, suffered a stroke. Proud of her independence, she was still living alone in a comfy one-bedroom apartment. From what we could piece together afterward, she had collapsed during a night-time visit to the bathroom -- breaking her ankle in the process. She lay on the bathroom floor for over twelve hours until a neighbour heard her faint cries for help while leaving a newspaper at her door at dinner time. Thankfully, the building was full of other independent seniors who used an informal "buddy system" (like the neighbour's newspaper delivery accompanied by a knock on the door) to check on each other.
Mom barely survived the shock of her ordeal looking totally shrunken and withdrawn. While in hospital waiting until she was stable enough to have her ankle repaired, she was tested and diagnosed with dementia resulting from the stroke. She was on strong pain killers and lapsing in and out of a state in which she seemed momentarily lucid. She then slipped back into confusion. She mostly refused to eat. She was having trouble swallowing. When I almost begged her to eat something, she would get irritated and ask how I would like to have to "get down there" to consume the hospital's food offerings. I thought that the painkillers were at work and she was having some sort of out of body experience.
Weeks later, after her ankle had been put back together with plates and screws and she was recovering in a rehab hospital, she recounted a strange story when my wife and I were visiting her one day. She said that she had been joined at the ankle to an unknown but friendly man until after her operation, during which he was cut away and apparently died. She gave the impression that he was there while she was still in danger. At the time I suggested that it was the painkillers (opiates) at work and not to worry about it, but she insisted it had happened.
Hearing John Geiger interviewed on the radio years after my mother's eventual passing jogged my memory. I read The Third Man Factor and now I wonder whether Mom experienced something like Karl Jaspers observed in chapter 7 "Sensed Presence (I)".