Wednesday, 19 March 2008


Mum calls me: “Hello Greg. I thought I should call you because we haven’t spoken for quite some time now.”

This is Mum’s current favourite opening line, although she rings almost every day. I suspect, to her mind, that it makes her sound competent and like she’s managing me. Mum has thought about this call in advance, and she quickly switches to a theme I haven’t heard for a while: that she’s short of money. Once again I go through the familiar list: she doesn’t need money at the home for things like hair-dressing and chiropody; I’ve left money at Reception for her and she only has to ask for it; in three months she hasn’t once needed money for anything… This is all received as shocking news to Mum and she keeps interjecting with “Really?” or “I didn’t know that!”

Then our talk turns to this weekend. Mum wants to know if I’m going to visit her. I explain that the Easter weekend is the first time since January that I’ll have a chance to travel down South to continue clearing her apartment, and that I’m working in London on Thursday and will continue on to the flat afterwards. I start listing the things I have to get done down there. When I say that I’m going to lift the carpet in the bathroom to find out why the floor is swollen, Mum says: “But there isn’t any carpet in the bathroom – it’s just… lino” and I realise that she is thinking about where she is living now (her new bathroom is a wet-room). I explain that it’s the flat in Sussex I’m travelling down to, not where she is living now. Mum pauses for a moment, but I don’t immediately see the significance.

We’re finishing up the call soon after, and Mum says “Well, I’ll see you at the weekend, then.” I say that, no, I’m travelling down South to work on her old flat. She hesitates again and I suddenly realise something. “Mum… do you know where you’re living now?” Mum is indignant “Of course I do. In the place that… that… we bought for me!” “And where is that, Mum?” And she names her old address down in Sussex.

Mum’s memories of the last 5 months haven’t stuck in her head. This is why she cannot name anyone she’s living with or any of the staff members. Now it seems that she has elided her new home with her last one. I suppose it’s a positive sign that this place feels like home to her. I’m reminded again how good a thing it is that she is being looked after and I think how wretched her life would have been now if I’d not done anything a few months ago.

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