It was our turn to order. She was rocking back and forth. My mom Kathy shuffled up to the counter. She stood there rocking.
The young lady behind the counter greeted us. She took our hot chocolate order and pressed all the buttons on the register. The young lady looked at me and smiled brightly. She looked at my mom and asked, “Is there anything else I can get you?”
“Hey!” Kathy said in her monotone voice looking at the young girl.
“Yes maam?” the young girl said sweetly, smiling back.
“Hey.” Kathy was rocking back and forth. Her cheeks were sunken and lips pursed where she was sucking in her cheeks against her teeth. “Hey. I farted.”
The young lady stopped smiling.
“I farted. I farted, Kathy. I farted.” She just kept repeating it, over and over and over and over again.
The young lady looked at me slightly red faced, slightly nervous. I straightened up. I smiled. I was a bit embarrassed. Not as embarrassed as I used to get, but a small twinge in the belly. I handed my money to the young lady. “Umm, she farted and we’ll just take the hot chocolates. Thanks.” I didn’t know what else to say. Kathy was still repeating, “I farted” behind me. I got my change, smiled again and gave her the standard, “Have a nice day. Thanks, again.” The monotone “I farted” was like a skipping record still playing as we stepped to the side to wait for our order.
We drank our hot chocolates in the car.
My mom repeats things. She repeats things quite a bit. My mom can’t initiate conversation anymore. I imagine this is her way of having a conversation in the only way she can now.
Sometimes she adds a name at the end of the sentence, sometimes not. “Speed limit 35. Speed limit 35, Kathy. Speed limit 35. Speed limit 35, Joey. Speed limit 35.”
Occasionally I can redirect her, sometimes not. You can ask her a question in the middle of her echoing, she’ll stop, answer, and then repeat her answer. I don’t mind it. I know it is the only conversation we can have now. I sometimes think her repeating is her way of having that conversation, the heart-to-heart, if she could. Every once in a while you get a “farting” episode in the McDonalds. Once she repeatedly called someone in the Big Lots “heavy” (not her exact words). But usually she just helpfully reminds you of the speed limit, or what you are ordering in the drive through. It’s Kathy’s conversation.
To reenact this experience for yourself, to get a first person point of view, please follow these steps:
1) Go anywhere in public (McDonald’s will do)
2) Pass gas (the decibel level is up to your own talents)
3) Look at the nearest stranger and with a blank, matter-of-fact tone say “Hey.”
4) Say “I farted”
5) Repeat “I farted”
6) Repeat “I farted” and add anyone’s name at the end (Example: I farted, Joey.)
7) Repeat steps 4-6
8) Repeat steps 4-6