I'm jolted awake. It's dark and I'm disoriented for a few seconds. I realise that the phone is ringing. A wave of dread washes over me - a call at this time can't be good news.
"Hi Greg. I thought I'd better ring you because I'm short of money."
"Mum! It's....oh no...it's 4:45am. You can't call people at this time of night!"
Mum doesn't apologise. In fact, she sounds completely unconcerned, as if she hasn't heard me.
We go through the standard conversation where I explain that everything is paid for where she is, that there is money for her in the safe at Reception, that in the past 5 months she has not once needed money for anything. This is all news to Mum. She asks me what I mean by 'Reception', even though she often eats (for free, as a resident) in the café down there.
I get nowhere in trying to explain why it's bad that she's called me up in the middle of the night. It's something I struggle with, her lack of sympathy, or is it empathy? Mentally I have no problem accepting that Mum's ability to to do either has atrophied. But emotionally? That's a different matter. It's been years now since I could rely on her to feel sorry for me if something bad has happened, but I still am not used to it and I feel the pain of it afresh every time.
I may have to have the phone removed from her room if this happens again. It's a good thing that she's fallen out of the habit of calling anyone else. I think back to last year when I got a few sheepish phone calls from people asking me if there was anything I could do to stop Mum phoning them in the early hours.
Finally, I ask "What do you need money for Mum? What is it you want to buy?"
"Oh, I don't know.... food?"