Monday, 24 March 2008


I’m ending a call with Mum and, as usual, I ask if anyone has called her. No. So…has she called anyone? No.

At this point, it is my habit to suggest someone that Mum might telephone, and the last few times I’ve suggested ‘J’, each time provoking an enthusiastic reaction.

This time, however, Mum says “Now I’m glad you mentioned that because I can’t find my address book…” And Mum launches into a detailed story of how, when she came here, she had packed her (one) suitcase and it had been “full to bursting” and that she remembered putting the address book in a front pocket on the case, but that when she came to unpack it wasn’t there and she wonders if maybe it fell out on her journey.

This is confabulation, a sort of mental bridge that Mum has built across a chasm in her memory to help explain her current situation. She has been doing this for a year or two now. It must be half-conscious because she accepts my own version of events without any argument. I remind her that she didn’t pack or unpack, that I did all her packing and that there were several cases and a couple of car-loads of stuff. What’s more, I say, every time I visit her she tells me that she has no address book even though it’s either lying in plain view beside her telephone or in her dressing table drawer.

Mum grasps onto the idea of the dressing table drawer and says that she’s going straight to her room to look for it.

“And then you’ll phone ‘J’?”

And I get the usual enthusiastic reaction as if the idea of contacting ‘J’ has come right out of the blue.

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