BIRDS in the MATTRESS
Natural Solutions|August 2021
“Mrs. Walker is a nut. You need to do something with her,” I overheard the police officer say to my mother.
Lisa Skinner

I was incensed. I wanted to scream at the officer: “My grandma’s not crazy! She needs help.” But I kept quiet. In those days you didn’t talk back to adults, especially police officers.

I was a teenager, and it was just a few months after Nana told me about the birds in her mattress.

“What do you mean there are birds in your mattress?” I asked.

“They peck at my face at night,” Nana responded.

What’s wrong with my grandma, I thought. I wanted desperately to believe her. But what she was saying sounded impossible. Still, I checked the mattress on her bed, inside and out.

“I don’t see anything, grandma. How are they getting in?” “Oh, they’re very clever,” said Nana.

I went home and told my mom, who had already heard about the birds in the mattress. My mom revealed that Nana also thought people were stealing her jewelry and that she refused to take showers because she was convinced “the men would come and kill her.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” I asked my mother.

She looked down and took a drag from her cigarette, but remained silent. In those days you didn’t talk about mental illness.

Over the next several months the behaviors worsened. Nana called the police several times a day to report the birds, the thieves, and the men who were going to kill her.

The trouble came to a head one day when Nana was driving to the store and became so disoriented that she stopped in the middle of a four-lane street, got out of her car and started wandering around.

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