Sometimes, however, these symptoms can precede the downfall of her mind. If she becomes forgetful, calling people by the wrong names, leaving ordinary tasks incomplete, and in extreme cases losing recognition of her own family members, then her family must recognize that she can no longer be considered reliable. Small children should not be entrusted to her care. Forgotten cooking may lead to a kitchen blaze, or the livestock left unwatered and unfed on a hot day. Remonstrances and rebukes will not change these behaviors. Pity is a more appropriate response than anger.
Let such a woman be given work that is of less consequence. Let her sit by the fire and wind wool or do some such task that will endanger no one. Soon enough, the body’s decline will follow the mind’s absence. The family will experience less grief at her death if she has been treated with patience and kindness during her decline.
If she becomes exceedingly troublesome, opening doors in the night, wandering off in rainstorms, or exhibiting flashes of fury when she can no longer comprehend her surroundings, then administer to her a strong tea of valerian, one that puts her into a manageable state. This remedy may bring peace both to the old woman and to the family weary of caretaking for her.
On the Aging of the Flesh, Healer Molingal
Molly’s madness was all the harder to bear in that she remained so pragmatic and sensible in all other parts of her life.
Molly’s courses had stopped flowing some years ago. She had told me then that she would not ever conceive again. I had tried to comfort her and myself, pointing out that we had a daughter we shared, even if I had missed her childhood. It was foolish to ask more of fate than what we’d been gifted with already. I told her that I accepted there would be no last child for us, and I truly thought she had accepted it as well. We had a full and comfortable life at Withywoods. Hardships that had complicated her early life were a thing of the past, and I had separated myself from the politics and machinations of the court at Buckkeep Castle. We finally had time enough for each other. We could entertain traveling minstrels, afford whatever we desired, and celebrate the passing holidays as lavishly as we wished. We went out riding together, surveying the flocks of sheep, the blossoming orchard, the hayfields, and the vineyards in idle pleasure at such a serene landscape. We returned when we were weary, dined as we would, and slept late when it pleased us.
Our house steward, Revel, had become so competent as to make me nearly irrelevant. Riddle had chosen him well, even if he had never become the door soldier that Riddle had hoped for. The steward met weekly with Molly to talk of meals and supplies, and he worried me as often as he dared with lists of things he thought needed repairing or updating or, I swear to Eda, changed simply because the man delighted in change. I listened to him, allocated funds, and left it mostly in his capable hands. The estates generated enough income to more than compensate for their upkeep. Still, I watched the accounts carefully and set aside as much as I could for Nettle’s future needs. Several times she rebuked me for spending my own funds on repairs the estate could have paid for. But the crown had allocated me a generous allotment in return for my years of service to Prince Dutiful. Truly, we had plenty and to spare. I had believed that we were in the quiet backwater of our days, a time of peace for both of us. Her collapse at that Winterfest had alarmed me, but I had refused to accept that it was a foreshadowing of what was to come.
In the year after Patience died, Molly grew more pensive. She often seemed distracted and absentminded. Twice she had dizzy spells, and once she spent three days in bed before she felt fully recovered. She lost flesh and slowed down. When the last of her sons decided it was time to make their own ways in the world, she let them go with a smile for them, and quiet tears with me in the evening. “I am happy for them. This is their beginning time. But for me it is an ending, and a difficult one.” She began to spend more time at quiet pursuits, was very thoughtful of me, and showed more of her gentle side than she had in previous years.
The next year she recovered a bit. When spring came, she cleaned out the beehives she had neglected, and even went out and captured a new swarm. Her grown children came and went, always full of news of their busy lives, bringing her grandchildren to visit. They were happy to see that their mother had recaptured some of her old energy and spirit. Desire came back to her, to my delight. It was a good year for both of us. I dared to hope that whatever had caused her fainting spells was past. We grew closer, as two trees planted apart from each other finally find that their branches reach and intertwine. It was not that her children had been a barrier between us so much as that she had always given her first thought and time to them. I will shamelessly admit that I enjoyed becoming the center of her world, and did all I could to show her, in every way, that she had always held that place in my life.