by Irving Kenneth Zola

I was told to go see him because he was `classic' - an excellent representative of senile dementia with strong paranoid delusions. In other words, he was very old and very crazy.

Before making the visit, I looked at his record. Typical enough. He'd been in a state hospital for about a year now, transferred after a three year stay in a local nursing home. Eighty-four years old with more organ malfunctions than I cared to read about. The nursing notes said he was a nice old man, no trouble, needed some help to eat but "thank God he's continent." In fact they wouldn't have called for a psychiatric consult at all except that his delusion about "thieving" was bothering the staff and they feared it would soon bother the other patients. The last note in his record said he'd had no visitors in several years.

The ward he was on was like all the others, six to a room. I didn't know him but from the entrance I could see his name, `Anderson'.

He was sitting next to his bed, very close to his night stand, almost hovering.

Before entering, I looked for a place to sit. There was an old wooden chair beside his bed that seemed fairly sturdy. As I leaned heavily on my cane to lower myself, I tried to make both him and myself comfortable with a standard opening, "Well, Mr. Anderson, I am Dr. Zola. How are you today? You're looking good."

"How would you know?... You've never seen me before."

"Now, now, let's not get upset. I'm just trying to be nice."

"Won't help none."

"What won't?"

"Being nice. Those are the ones you have to worry about most." As he said that he shut the top drawer of the table.

"Well, the nurses here say that you've been worried. Want to tell me about it?"

"Not worried, just scared."

"What are you scared of?"

"Them and all them thieves."

"I don't understand."

"It's hard to sleep. When I do they'll take something."

"Like what?"

"Don't matter. They just keep on taking things."

"But what is there here to steal?"



"All of mine." And with a sweep of his hand, he indicated all the items in and on his table.

"But surely, no one wants anything of yours?" The words came out far more incredulously than I'd intended but he didn't seem to notice or to care.

"Every day I lose something." Now his gaze seemed to go right through me. "Soon, one day there will be nothing left of mine. And when everything is gone . . . . no one will know that I ever lived.

copyright Irving Kenneth Zola