Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary
While Ruth and LuLing wait for the doctor, LuLing asks questions about Dory and Sofia, the daughters of Ruth’s lover, Art. However, LuLing is confused about the details of the teen girls; she mixes up their ages and their levels at school and then argues with Ruth when Ruth attempts to correct her mother’s faulty memory. LuLing also forgets that the old cat Ruth raised from a kitten has died. LuLing receives this information about the cat’s death as if it is a complete shock. Ruth tells her mother how the cat died, but then LuLing contorts these details to make Ruth feel responsible for the animal’s death, which is far from the truth.
Ruth had phoned ahead to the doctor’s office, so the physician is aware of Ruth’s concerns about her mother’s memory lapses. After completing her physical, the doctor announces that LuLing’s heart and lungs and general health are very good. Then he begins a series of questions to attempt to analyze her mental capabilities. The doctor asks LuLing to do some mental math, and LuLing struggles with it. As Ruth listens, she makes silent complaints about this line of questioning. Ruth does the same when the doctor asks LuLing to recite the names of the past six U.S. presidents. Ruth mentally notes that her mother has never been very aware of politics. Ruth also rationalizes that her mother’s English is not very good, so she might not understand the doctor’s questions. However, when LuLing tells the doctor that she not only heard about the O.J. murder trial but actually witnessed the murder of O.J.’s wife, Ruth is caught off guard. Her mother has never even visited Los Angeles. Ruth wonders how she could honestly believe she had witnessed such a horrific crime there.
When the doctor steps out of the examination room to talk to Ruth alone, he tells her that her mother could be suffering from dementia. Even though Ruth has suspected this, it is difficult for her to hear the doctor’s...
(The entire section is 509 words.)