Friday 27 July 2007

ten commandments

"Hi. I've just spoken to D [the Warden] and the guest room is free that weekend!"
"... What weekend? ... For whom?"
Mum hesitates as it dawns on her that maybe she's screwed up again.
"Well for D & G, of course. I've just checked and the room will be free for them"
D & G are my Aunt and Uncle. Mum sounds proud of herself for sorting this out on her own.
"Mum.... I booked it about two months ago for them, and they're not coming for a weekend but for a Thursday night!"
"Oh" [befuddled]
"Mum, it's already organised. You don't have to do anything."

After two weeks of daily calls about my Brother-in-Law's visit and the non-availability of the room for him, we've now switched back to this visit. Happy Days.

What I need is a large LCD screen hanging on Mum's wall which I can update remotely with our version of the Ten Commandments. Seven come to mind off the top of my head:

1. Eat 3 meals today and walk your dog
2. ALL your bills are already paid AUTOMATICALLY - do not send off any cheques
3. Do not sign up for a Direct Debit without talking to me
4. Use the health supplements you've already bought before spending £300 on a new batch
5. You've given away a lifetime's amount of money to charity - you will need charity yourself if you give away any more
6. Do not phone people before 9 am
7. If guests are coming, the arrangements have already been made by me. You don't need to do anything.

I'm sure the rest will come to me.

Monday 16 July 2007


This must be the fifth morning in a row that I've been woken up by Mum wanting me to relay a message to my Brother-in-Law that the guest accommodation at her place is unavailable. Each morning I have to tell her that I know and that he and the family have booked a hotel in Hickstead, nearby.
"Hickstead?!!" Mum screeches with incredulity. This is news to her.

We will have the same exchange at least twice more today, if today plays out like the others.

Saturday 14 July 2007


I call Mum to relate an email I've received from my Brother-In-Law about his imminent visit. I can sense Mum's attempt to hide her panic on the other end of the phone, so I'm careful to remind her that he will not reach her until Friday, and that he and his daughters will not be staying with her but in a hotel and merely visiting her.
I also tell her that my cold is still pretty bad and my throat is sore.
"Oh dear, you've had that cold for AGES, haven't you?"
"No Mum, it began yesterday, I told you I was coming down with it yesterday."
"So when are you coming down?"

I've come to a theory about Mum's memory problems. I believe she copes by responding to clues in the sentences spoken to her. Thus because I said that my cold was STILL bad, Mum ventured that I'd had it for ages. Because I used the expression "coming down" with regard to the cold, Mum's attention flicked to asking when I was coming to visit her.

"Mum, I've told you several times when I'm coming down. There's no point in me telling you again, as you'll only get confused. Why don't you focus on your next visitors [B-In-Law and girls]?"
I get her to write down that they are visiting on Friday, as she has already forgotten. We end the call.

A couple of minutes later, the phone rings. Mum has an amused tone she uses only when she is trying to show how competent she still is.
"I just thought I'd say that you'd better be careful when you arrive tomorrow, as [the dog] will be all over you!"
"Mum, I'm not coming down tomorrow."
"Oh.... well the day after, then."

ADDENDUM: I had a further call in the afternoon where Mum announced that she'd bought some food ready for my arrival tomorrow...

Tuesday 10 July 2007


Mum rings me to tell me that tornadoes are heading her way according to the local news. She seems unconcerned. She says she's had a good day.
"Well, I've had a rotten day"
There is a long silence.
"Oh well, I suppose I'll be off then" she says.
"I just said I've had a bad day! Are you going to ask me about it or respond in any way?"
A shorter pause. She chuckles.
"Yes, I suppose."
I get to list the problems I've dealt with today. There's no reaction or sympathy to anything. I don't think she understands a word I'm saying. Perhaps if I was a newsreader on her TV I could reach her.

Monday 9 July 2007

I can't begin to describe my morning

Another early wake-up phone call. Too much to process here. Cutting through the half-truths and inventions has taken me two hours. In the process I've brought down a whole edifice of un-truth concerning a local cab company, an edifice that Mum has been building all year. I'm beginning to wonder if it might make life easier for us both if I refrain from pointing out her inconsistencies, try not to listen to the detail and simply 'read between the lines' to what's behind it all - her unhappiness with this or that arrangement. Sometimes, though, what she says alarms me and I urgently need to get to the bottom of it. That's when it becomes frustrating talking to someone who contradicts herself in adjoining sentences. Outrageously so.

Sunday 8 July 2007

memory slips real and useful

6:00pm on Sunday evening. I call Mum to see how she’s doing.

“Fine. I’m just on my way out to the shops, actually. Can I call you back later?”
“Mum, it’s Sunday. The shops will have shut a couple of hours ago.”
She takes the news well, and I enquire as to what she has in the freezer that she can eat tonight. As I do every day, I ask if she’s been out for a walk with the dog.
“Oh, yes! I was out for about an hour and a half with her.”
“When was that?”
“Oh, I went out about 5:30 with her”
I let it pass. Talk switches to my Aunt and Uncle visiting in August.
“G’s adamant that he’s coming down on the train, which means I’ll have to drive to the station to pick them up, and it means I’ll have to drive them to the… to the…the…Brasserie”
I’m pleased that Mum has at last taken it on-board that they will not have their car with them. It’s only taken 4 reminders from me, and maybe a couple more from my Aunt and Uncle. I think about it for a while and start to suspect “G was adamant” means that this time she ‘conveniently forgot’ and was trying to persuade them. I ring my Uncle, to check, and it seems she rang them excited that she’d bought them a parking permit at the flats (guest permits are actually free). He tells me that she tried several other ways to manipulate them into changing their plans.
This is the first time I’ve noticed Mum using her memory problems in a mischievous way. I'll have to look out for this in future.

Incidentally, Mum had no memory of calling my Aunt on Friday about the 'change of plans' and unavailability of the guest accommodation.

Friday 6 July 2007

conversations that never happened

This morning I received a call from my Aunt. She and my Uncle are visiting Mum next month. I had made the arrangements for them about 6 weeks ago, booking them the guest accommodation at the flats where Mum lives. Apparently, Mum rang them around 8am this morning telling them that since they had changed their dates the accommodation was already booked out.

Naturally, this was confusing for them, since they haven't changed their plans at all.

I hadn't wanted to bother them at the time, but I had to correct Mum a fortnight ago, when she mentioned this visit and started telling me about several excursions she was looking forward to when they're with her, about the restaurants they'd take her to, and so on. I had to remind her that they're only there for one night and that since they are travelling down by train there would be no galavanting about the countryside.

Now, forgetting the details of a visit is one thing, but this morning's incident concerns me, since it involves at least 2 conversations that didn't take place in the real world: one where my relatives changed the dates of their stay and one where the Warden told her that their 'new dates' were unavailable.