Thursday, 14 October 2010
I'm let onto the household by F, a jovial Zimbabwean care worker, and we walk up together towards Mum. I see her looking at us both blankly, her mouth hanging open. I know she's been told I'm coming but I'm curious to see if she'll recognise me. Nothing. A few steps away, I relent and say "Hello Mum". She checks both my face and F's face before deciding that it was me who spoke. Then she beams.
It's her 82nd Birthday, and we admire the flowers sent by my Brother-in-law, open the cards that have come (significantly fewer this year, but still treasured). Then I open the huge box of clothes I've brought. I spent last night sewing labels into each and every one, and I've taken photos of them all. I'll be interested to see how long they remain in her wardrobe.
After lunch (and much birthday cake), I take Mum downstairs for a hair appointment. When the hairdresser is ready for us, I help Mum over to the washing station, noting that the seat she's been sitting on is now soaking wet. Mum is oblivious, and I wait until her attention is elsewhere before I find some paper towels and set about cleaning up. Dementia is like being a passenger in an aircraft coming in to land through cloud: it's rarely a smooth descent and there's no indication of how quickly the ground is racing up to meet you. This wet seat hits me like a little air-pocket.
Back on the household, F tells me that my visit has made his day and that what I've done for my Mum has warmed his heart. I'm always at a loss to respond when someone praises me like this. It's not as if I'm looking after Mum personally at home - that would be heroic. I feel guilty for accepting his high regard.
I'm not the pilot, I'm just another passenger on the plane.