Heather no.1 brings the conversation back to her favourite anecdote. In her head, she is a young girl again, living at home in a large family of older brothers with whom we must all be familiar. They are evidently just out of sight for now but will be here soon. Her story is one where she scolds one of them and he shrugs his shoulders, looking sheepish. She swells herself up to mimic him. She finds the tale hilarious. I've heard her tell it for two years now. She is always happy, firmly rooted back home in the bosom of her family.
Heather no.2 drums her fingers on the table and tolerates this story. She knows that she is an adult and that she is retired. Just retired, in fact. And she recognises where she is, worked in the same building, in a different wing. Perhaps I know it? She worked "with the infants" (hospital or school, I don't ask). She is serious, professional, rising above those around her. Just occasionally she will betray a little nervousness as to our precise location. She names first one town and then another. I reassure her that we are nearby to both. Then the tape loop begins again and she's telling me that she used to work here. At one point Heather no.1 asks her a question, calling her "Nana", and she scowls.
Mum's preference is to listen rather than tell stories. Over the years, as her dementia grew, I think she learned to stay quiet and not volunteer information which might then be queried and lead to her exposure. It's only when I open my laptop and begin showing her pictures that she perks up. We go through the usual responses to my childhood pictures (adoring) and to pictures of her Husband (completely baffled). And then I show her a video of the approach to her last residence, her retirement apartment and ask her if she remembers it. She says, "That's this place, of course." I distract her and stop the video before it becomes obvious that she is wrong. It won't do any good to correct her, and I'd rather she believe she is home, too.
Each woman at this table addresses herself to me almost exclusively. I see their need for confirmation, for me to validate their conception of the world. They can't get this from each other because their realities conflict. For Mum and Heather no.1, they are both home and that's all that matters. As the property shows keep telling us, it's all about location.