George Kelly’s 72-year-old mother was in bad shape. Just a few days before, she took a nasty fall down the stairs from the second floor to the ground floor of her apartment. She was already quite brittle, so one particularly hard knock on her upper right arm fractured it on the corner where the tread and riser of a stair meet.
Fortunately, George–who still lived with her–was there when the accident happened, having heard her scream from her apartment, which was right by the stairs. She’d meant to go to the grocery store just down the street to buy something, and she’d assured him that he didn’t need to accompany her; he could just relax in the living room and watch TV, for she’d be right back.
If only he’d accompanied her.
Instead of going to the grocery store, she of course went in his car to the hospital where he worked. He was a nurse, and he insisted on taking care of her personally.
She lay in her recovery room on a bed the upper half of which was raised up at about a forty-five degree angle. Her right arm was in a cast, going straight out from the side of the bed to the elbow, then going straight up from there.
George virtually never left the room. The rest of the staff liked and respected him enough to let him focus all of his care on her during his nursing shifts, and when his shifts were finished, he was allowed to stay with her even when she was sleeping and therefore not to be disturbed, which he of course would never do. He slept in a bed on the other side of the room, had a change of clothes handy, and food was sent to him as well as to her.
Why did he insist on being with her as much as possible? His love for her went far beyond the usual love of the most dutiful of sons. George, in his late thirties, never married. He was straight, but no woman could ever replace his sweet mother.
Though as a high school student, he’d bullied Tiffany along with Faye and all the others, George was far more of a ‘weakling’ (in the form of a ‘mama’s boy’) than Tiffany could ever have been. By calling her a “wimp,” he was really just engaging in projection.
His father died when he was six, so his mother’s burden of raising their one child was enormous. She’d been a timid, reclusive sort, with virtually no friends in the neighbourhood, so he became her best friend…in the Norman Bates sense, though without the psychopathy.
She was his entire world, and vice versa. Terrified of abandonment, she couldn’t bear the idea of him meeting a girl and marrying her, then moving away to some far-off city, his mother never seeing him again except for the ever-so-occasional visit.
So, in anticipation of such a scary prospect, his mother subtly manipulated her boy into such a state of emotional dependency on her that the idea of marrying and moving away would have been unthinkable to him. She even influenced his decision to become a nurse, so she’d have someone to take care of her in her old age…and now he would do just that for her.
On the third night of her hospitalization, he sat by her bed, his eyes tearing up. He knew in his intellect that with proper care, which she of course was getting, she would be fine and well again; but her fear of abandonment was something she’d managed to project onto him, so his emotions overruled his intellect, and any significant injury she’d sustain would put him in terror of her approach to death being at all pushed forward.
She lay there asleep. The medical equipment indicated, at a glance, that her heart rate and other vital signs were fine. He could see the rising and falling of her chest to indicate breathing; but the fear remained in his heart that that rising and falling would stop, even though he knew, in his medical expertise, that there was no reason for such a stopping to occur all of a sudden.
“Wake up,” he whispered in a barely audible voice. “Mom, please wake up.” He wanted her to wake up, but he didn’t want to be the cause of her waking up.
Her eyes opened. She looked at him and smiled.
“George,” she said in the frailest of voices.
“Oh, Mom,” he said, with a smile and a tear running down his right cheek. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“No, dear,” she said. “I just had a really good, long nap. I actually feel quite good, especially with you here. It’s comforting knowing my son, the best nurse in the world, is so dedicated to my recovery.”
“I am, Mom,” he sobbed. “Yet I’m so mad at myself for not insisting on going with you to the grocery store. When you slipped, I could have grabbed your arm and stopped you from falling.”
“We didn’t know this would happen. Don’t blame yourself.”
“You’ll be OK, Mom. Don’t worry. I’ll be sure of that.”
“I’m sure you will, son. But if you’re so sure, why are you crying?”
“I just hate to see you get hurt, Mom. There’s always that fear, in the back of my mind, of something…anything…going wrong.”
“What could possibly go wrong, honey?”
“Well, we assumed you’d be OK going to the store by yourself, and look what happened.”
“Oh, just because one thing went wrong doesn’t mean all manner of other things will go wrong, too. George, tell me: what’s worrying you so much? You always seem so afraid for me, and that’s sweet and all, but you’re making yourself needlessly unhappy, and that will affect your own health. What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing, I guess,” he said, looking down at his hands, which drooped between his knees. “I guess I’m just thinking silly thoughts.”
“Well, stop thinking silly thoughts,” she said, giving him a firm look. “Oh, I’ve gotten sleepy again. Back to sleep for me.” She closed her eyes.
“Good, Mom. Get some more rest.”
Actually, his thoughts weren’t all that silly. He just couldn’t tell her about the voice he’d hear, from time to time, a voice that he’d been hearing over the past year.
A voice that said, You’re going to murder her one day.
…and the speaker of that voice, invisible, was at that very moment hovering right beside him.