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The Little Girl in the Radiator 暖气片里的小女孩

原文作者:辛献云

她是你生命里最亲近的人,教你吃饭、穿衣、说话,陪你一路长大,曾是这个风雨世界里让你感觉最安全和温暖的港湾。然而,忽然有一天,她不记得你了,不记得家了,不记得自己是谁,不记得回家的路……她在失去记忆的海洋里孤独地沉沉浮浮,成了你整天牵挂、放心不下的“负担”。人们说她“痴呆”,医生说她“失智”,但只有儿子知道,她只是迷路了,被禁锢在幻觉丛生的模糊世界里,成了一个回不了家的小女孩。
   the consultant asked, “tell me, what year is it now, rose?” my mother frowned. “let me think,” she said. “is the war still on?” “do you mean the second world war?” he asked. mum nodded. “no, that ended in 1945,” said the consultant. “what year is it now?” “then it must be after that,” she replied. “it’s 2002,” he said. “yes, that’s right,” said mum, who would have agreed if he’d told her it was 1812. i squeezed her hand gently.
   looking back on it now, i am convinced that my mother’s dementia2) began the day my father died. mum had nursed my dad devotedly through his final illness and when death eventually came, she had gone into a deep shock. it had been a difficult period for me too, with my own marriage coming to an end at the same time.[论文网]
   which was why i found myself, a year after dad had gone, sitting in mum’s kitchen and asking whether i could move back in with her. “oh, that would be lovely!” she cried.
   i hadn’t realised quite how much the dementia was starting to ebb and flow3) in her mind—already much worse than when we’d seen the consultant just a few months before. but once i’d moved back in, her decline became all too apparent.
   i stepped out of the shower one morning to find my bath towel cut into a series of neat strips, about 12 in all. “what’s happened here, mum?” i’d called.
   “ask aunt peggy,” she said. “that’s just the kind of thing she’d do.” “aunt peggy’s been dead for years.” i replied. mum looked at me as if i’d hit her. “how could you say such a thing?” she said, tears springing to her eyes. “i spoke to her only yesterday.”
   that was the brutality of ignorance on my part. later, when i understood a bit better how alzheimer’s worked, i’d be much more tactful.
   it took me a long time to understand why mum kept cutting everything up. but i finally found out that alzheimer’s sufferers will often continue to carry out their once-familiar tasks as a way of anchoring themselves in the confusing sea of their new life.
   mum had been a seamstress4) all her adult life, so that when she found herself chopping up towels and clothes, in her own mind she was back in her workshop, cutting up fabric for curtains and bedding.
   then, and many other times in the years i looked after her, i realised how often there is a perfectly simple explanation for the apparently inexplicable5). it was around christmas that year when i came home one evening to find mum watching tv with a huge, headless bird in an armchair next to her. ‘

 “what’s this, mum?” i asked. “it’s our christmas turkey, of course,” she replied, as though i were an idiot. “i bought him f

rom the supermarket this morning. i couldn’t resist him.”
   i read the label on the creature’s leg. “giant christmas goose,” it announced. “will feed 12 people.” we were just two for christmas dinner. the day before christmas eve i’d got home to find all my socks pinned to the walls and ceilings of the house. “i’ve been putting up the decorations,” cried mum, dancing into the hallway.
   and then there was the imaginary irish band. i can’t remember quite when they appeared, only that there were six of them—an accordion6) player, a couple of guitarists, a violinist, perhaps a banjo7) player and a singer called michael who had a lovely voice, according to mum. i was so grateful to those lads. they would keep mum entertained for hours.
   one evening, i saw mum lean over and look at the radiator at the back of the living room. i watched as she smiled lovingly at it, and nodded once or twice. her lips moved as though she were saying something.
   “what are you doing, mum?” i asked, gently. her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. she shook her head but did not reply. “why are you talking to the radiator?” i persisted.
   “she’s asked me not to say anything!” exclaimed mum, her eyes filling with tears. “it’s the little girl in the radiator.” tears were pouring from mum’s eyes now. “she’s all alone in there,” she explained. “she’s trapped and she’s frightened, and i don’t know how to help her.”
   i went across the room and put my arm around her. she sobbed into my shoulder. “what can i do to help?” i whispered. “you could let her out!” she cried, and the tears came again. “tell her i said it’s ok, she can come out,” i replied.
   it’s funny how easily you can get caught up in another person’s delusion8). after that night, i found myself talking to the little girl in the radiator with mum on many occasions.
   but things were worsening fast. “i’m off now!” she called up the stairs to me one night, after putting on her raincoat, headscarf and gloves. “see you later.”
   i knew she was going nowhere—her behaviour had been getting more and more erratic lately, and i was having to keep the front door locked and hide the key. “it’s quarter past three in the morning!” i shouted, pulling the pillow over my head.
   “i have an appointment at the hairdresser’s!” she shouted back. “i can’t get out!” “the hairdresser’s doesn’t open for six hours,” i yelled. “go back to bed!”

 with alzheimer’s, it’s not just the patients that go crazy. but it was only when a friend found mum wandering the streets at five in the morning wearing only her nightie and with a pair of broken sandals in her hand that i knew something had to be done. the truth was simple: i just couldn’t cope.
   that afternoon, with a heavy sense of defeat and shame, i telephoned the social worker who had contacted me when mum had first been diagnosed.
   a few weeks later, after she’d been moved into a

home, the staff advised i leave mum a few days before going to visit her for the first time.
   when i did arrive, i found her wandering along a corridor hand in hand with an elderly male patient. mum broke into a huge smile. “i have something to tell you,” she said. “i’m going to have a baby!”
   for some people, this sort of announcement might have been a shock coming from their 80-year-old mother. but i’d been looking after mum far too long to be surprised by anything.
   “jesus, mum!” i said. “you’ve only been here a week!” “terry and i are going to call it martin if it’s a boy and peggy if it’s a girl,” mum continued. “we’re very happy, aren’t we terry?”
   and so began a whole new chapter in mum’s life.
  but, the little girl in the radiator remained as firmly rooted in mum’s consciousness as ever. dropping in on her one evening, i found mum kneeling in front of the radiator in her room with a box of chocolates on the floor in front of her. she was holding out a chocolate to the radiator, apparently trying to give it to the little girl.
   “is she still in there, mum?” i said. “she can’t get out,” replied mum, over her shoulder. “she’s just lost in the dark, and she’s confused.” “do you think she’s ever going to come out?” i whispered. mum looked at me, sadly. “i don’t see how she can. she comes from dublin, you know. but she can’t ever go home, not now.”
   “what kind of things does she tell you?” “she tells me how kind to me you are. she knows all about me, and i know all about her.” “you’ve become very close then, you and this little girl,” i said.
   “we’re the same,” replied mum, simply. “do you know her name?” i asked, although i already knew the answer.
   “her name is rose,” replied mum. “she’s you, isn’t she?” i whispered, my eyes filling with tears that i could not hold back. “you’re the little girl in the radiator, aren’t you?”
   i thought my heart would break. i now knew why this delusion above all others had persisted through the years, and why the image of a small child, alone, frightened and abandoned in the dark, was the perfect description of the effects of alzheimer’s itself.

 a deep understanding had been forged between my mum and me that day. i felt i might be able to reach her now at some deeper level and that there was a new future for our relationship.
   sadly, it was not to be. just days later mum suffered a severe stroke9), followed by two more. on 15 november, 2007, i got the call to say that she’d gone.
   when i stood at the graveside, i couldn’t help but smile as i remembered the mum i’d loved so much. i thought about the forest of socks pinned to the ceiling and walls. i thought about the giant christmas goose. i thought about michael and the irish band.
   and then, in my mind’s eye, i saw the little girl, standing on the other side of the grave. i recognised her straight away from a much-loved photog

raph of mum. she was six years old or so, in a pretty pink dress with a matching bow in her hair, and clasping an armful of teddies. here was the little girl, shining and new, before that vicious thief, alzheimer’s, had stolen away her future, leaving her alone and frightened in the darkness.
   she smiled, and waved, then she turned and was gone. the little girl in the radiator was free at last.
   医生问:“告诉我,萝丝,今年是哪一年?”母亲皱了皱眉头。wWw.11665.cOm“让我想想,”她说,“现在还在打仗吗?”“你是说第二次世界大战吗?”医生问。妈妈点了点头。“不打了,1945年就结束了,”医生说,“今年是哪一年呢?”“那一定是二战以后了。”她答道。医生说:“今年是2002年。”“噢,这就对了。”妈妈说。假如医生告诉她是1812年,她也会同意的。我轻轻地捏了捏她的手。
   现在回头看,我确信母亲是在父亲去世那天患上痴呆症的。在父亲生病的最后日子里,母亲一直悉心照料着他,当死神最终降临时,她遭受了沉重的打击。那段时间我的日子过得也很艰难,因为我的婚姻那时也走到了尽头。
   所以,在父亲去世一年后,我坐在母亲的厨房里,问她我是否可以搬回来和她一起住。“啊,那样太好了!”她喊道。
  我当时没有意识到痴呆症在她头脑中反复发作已经到了多么严重的地步——要比几个月前我们看医生时严重多了。不过,我搬回去住之后,就立马感觉到她的病情已明显加重了。
   一天早上,我从淋浴室出来,发现我的浴巾被剪成了很多整齐的长条,大概共有12条。“这是怎么回事,妈妈?”我喊道。
  “去问佩吉姑妈,”她说,“那是她喜欢干的事。”“佩吉姑妈都死了好几年了啊。”我答道。妈妈看着我,好像我打了她一下。“你怎么能这样说呢?”泪水涌入她的眼中,“我昨天还和她说过话呢。”
   这就是我无知的残忍之处。后来,当我更加了解阿尔茨海默症是怎么回事后,我说话就更讲究策略了。
  我很长时间都无法理解为什么妈妈总是剪各种东西。但我最终还是明白了,阿尔茨海默症患者往往会继续他们曾经熟悉的工作,以使自己能够在新生活迷茫的大海中找到自己的依靠。
   妈妈成年后一直在做裁缝的工作,所以当她把毛巾和衣服剪成条时,在她自己的脑海中是自己回到了车间,在为窗帘和床上用品裁剪布料。
  那时,我意识到,对于某些表面看莫名其妙的现象,其实常常都可以找到非常简单的解释。在我照料她的那些岁月里,我也多次有这种感悟。有一年,圣诞节快到了,我有天晚上回到家里,发现妈妈正在看电视,旁边的单人沙发上放着一只硕大的无头家禽。
   “这是什么呀,妈妈?”我问。“这当然是我们的圣诞节火鸡啊,”她回答说,那样子好像以为我是个白痴。“这是我今天上午从超市买的。我忍不住就买了下来。”
  我看了看那东西腿上的标签,上面写着: “圣诞节巨型大鹅,供12人食用。”而我们圣诞节晚餐只有两个人。平安夜前一天,我回到家,发现我所有的袜子都被钉在了家里的墙上和天花板上。“我一直在布置这些装饰品。”妈妈喊道。她边说边手舞足蹈地走入玄关。
   再后来就出现了那个想象中的爱尔兰乐队。我已记不大清楚他们是什么时候开始出现的,只记得他们有六个人:一个拉手风琴的,两个弹吉他的,一个拉小提琴的,大概还有一个弹班卓琴的,和一个名叫迈克尔的歌手——据妈妈说,他的声音很好听。我对这几个小伙子充满感激。他们常给妈妈带来几个小时的快乐。
   一天晚上,我看到妈妈在客厅的后方弯着腰看暖气片。我看见她亲切地对着暖气片微笑,还不时地点点头。她的嘴唇在动,似乎在说些什么。

 “妈妈,你在做什么?”我轻声问道。她感到尴尬,面颊一片绯红。她摇了摇头,没有回答。“你怎么在对着暖气片说话呢?”我继续追问。
  “她让我什么都别说!”妈妈大声说道,眼里满含着泪水。“是暖气片里的那个小女孩。”泪水立即从妈妈的眼睛里夺眶而出。“就她一个人在里面,”她解释说,“她被困住了,非常害怕,我不知道该怎样帮她。”
   我走过去,伸手搂住她。她趴在我肩上抽泣着。“我可以为她做点什么吗?”我在她耳边说。“你可以放她出来!”她叫道,泪水再一次涌了出来。“告诉她,我说了,没事的,她可以出来了。”我回答道。
   想想真是有趣,一个人可以很轻易地被卷入另一个人的幻觉中。那天晚上以后,我发现自己好几次都和妈妈一起对暖气片里的那个小女孩说话。
  但情况还在急剧恶化。一天夜里,她穿着雨衣,围着头巾,戴着手套,站在楼梯上冲我喊道:“我要走了!待会儿再见!”
  我知道她哪儿也去不了——由于她最近的行为越来越古怪,我不得不把前门锁上,把钥匙藏起来。“现在才凌晨三点一刻!”我大喊道,一把拉过枕头蒙住了头。
  “我和理发师约好了!”她冲我喊道,“我出不去了!”“理发店要六个小时以后才能开门呢,”我喊道,“快回床上睡觉!”
  在有阿尔茨海默症患者的家庭里,发疯的不仅仅是病人。一天早上,凌晨五点,一位朋友发现我妈妈在大街上漫无目的地走着,身上只穿着睡衣,手里还拿着一双破烂的凉鞋。这时我才意识到我该采取些措施了。事实很简单:我已应付不了。
   那天下午,带着一种沉重的挫败感和愧疚感,我给一位社工打了电话,在妈妈初次确诊之后他就和我联系过了。
  几周后,妈妈被送入了一家养老院。工作人员建议我离开妈妈几天,然后再对她进行第一次探望。
  当我到养老院探望她时,我看到她正和一位年迈的男病人一起手拉手在走廊上转悠。妈妈看到我乐开了花。“我有件事要告诉你,”她说,“我要生小宝宝了!”
  对于某些人来说,听到80岁的老母亲作出这样的宣告应该会惊讶不已。但我照顾妈妈为时已久,她说什么我都不会感到惊讶。
  “天哪,妈妈!”我说,“你来到这里才一个星期呀!”“要是男孩,泰瑞和我就打算叫他马丁,要是女孩就叫佩吉,”妈妈说,“我们非常幸福,是吧,泰瑞?”
  于是,妈妈的生活又掀开了全新的篇章。
  但暖气片里的那个小女孩依然像往常一样根深蒂固地存在于妈妈的意识中。一天晚上,我顺道去看望她,发现她跪在房间里的暖气片前,面前的地板上放着一盒巧克力。她正拿着一块巧克力伸向暖气片,显然是想把它递给那个小女孩。
   “她还在那里面吗,妈妈?”我问。“她出不来,”妈妈回过头来说,“她在黑暗中迷路了,她很困惑。”“你觉得她还有可能出来吗?

”我轻声问道。妈妈看着我,伤心地说:“我不知道她怎样才能出来。你知道的,她来自都柏林。但她再也回不了家了,现在回不去了。”
   “她都对你说了些什么呢?”“她对我说你对我是多么好。她知道我的一切,我也知道她的一切。”“这么说你们俩关系很亲近,你和这个小女孩。”我说。
  “我们俩是一样的。” 妈妈的回答很简单。“你知道她的名字吗?” 我问。其实我心中已有了答案。
  “她叫萝丝,”妈妈说。“她就是你,是不是?”我轻声说,眼里充满了泪水,我再也控制不住眼泪。“你就是暖气片里的那个小女孩,是不是?”
  我感觉自己的心要碎了。现在我终于知道为什么在那么多幻觉中唯有这个幻觉这么多年来一直在妈妈脑中挥之不去,为什么这个小女孩的形象——这个在黑暗中孤单、害怕、无助的小女孩——和阿尔茨海默症的症状是如此吻合。
   那一天,我对妈妈有了更深刻的了解。我觉得我现在能够从某个更深的层次来理解她了,感到我们的关系将会有一个新的未来。
  遗憾的是,事与愿违。就在几天后,妈妈遭受了一次严重的中风,后来又中风两次。2007年11月15日,我接到电话,说她走了。
  站在坟墓旁,回想起我如此深爱的妈妈,我禁不住微笑起来。我想起天花板和墙上到处钉着的袜子,想起那个巨型的圣诞节肉鹅,想起迈克尔和爱尔兰乐队。
  然后,在想象中,我看到了那个小女孩,站在坟墓的另一旁。我从妈妈特别喜爱的一张照片中一眼就认出了她。她约莫六岁,穿着一件漂亮的粉红色连衣裙,头上别着一只搭配得恰到好处的蝴蝶结,怀里紧紧抱着几只泰迪熊。这就是那个小女孩,光鲜照人,清新可爱,那时阿尔茨海默这个邪恶的小偷还没能偷走她的未来,还没有把她一个人扔在黑暗中担惊受怕。
   她笑了,挥了挥手,转过身,消失了。终于,暖气片里的那个小女孩自由了。
  1. 本文节选自《暖气片里的小女孩:母亲、阿尔茨海默症与我》(the little girl in the radiator: mum, alzheimer’s & me)一书。该书2012年由英国出版公司monday books出版,讲述的是作者照顾患有阿尔茨海默症的母亲的真实经历,也指出了社会对这类群体及其家庭存在歧视的现状。
   2. dementia [d??men??] n. 痴呆症
  3. ebb and flow:涨落,盛衰,消长
  4. seamstress [?si?mstr?s] n. 女裁缝,女裁工
  5. inexplicable [??n?k?spl?k?bl] adj. 无法说明的,费解的,莫名其妙的
  6. accordion [??k??di?n] n. 手风琴
  7. banjo [?b?nd???] n. 班卓琴
  8. delusion [d??lu??n] n. 错觉,幻想,妄想
  9. stroke [str??k] n. 中风
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  •  更新时间:2013-05-31 13:02:30  作者:佚名 [标签: 暖气片 ]
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