Monday 19 May 2008

table manners

Mum’s looking at me with an inscrutable expression. It’s quite unnerving. Every time I look up from my plate she’s staring at me.

After a few minutes of yes/no conversation, we’ve lapsed into silence and I’m (as usual) worrying what it means and (as usual) concluding that she’s upset and unhappy with me over her change of circumstances. I hold her look for a second and it feels awkward. I pull a face. After a few heartbeats she raises her eyebrows slightly. A minute later we’re doing it again.

“I’m wondering…..whatever happened to that gorgeous little boy I brought up.” she says, eventually.

After a stunned moment, I realise that this isn’t a snide remark. I think she really is having a little trouble recognising me as Greg.

Mum’s worrying me this week. She’s very frail and uncertain, hesitating over her knife and fork, looking to me for cues, reaching for her glass when I take a drink from mine. She seems nervous and out of her depth. How much longer will I be able to take her out to restaurants like this?

Getting up to go, she needs one hand on my arm and the other holding her stick. She does a sort of stationary jig before we set off, like she needs to wobble her legs into motion.

Saturday 10 May 2008

Tokyo... 1968-70

I have no idea what age I was here - maybe 2? Anyway, I like the composition. The girl on the right was called Hisako and took to me as if I was a little white-blond puppy. Dad was the local Vice President of an international US travel firm and he and Mum hosted lots of cocktail parties for ambassadors and visiting Hollywood stars. I tell everyone that being exposed to Judy Garland and Ethel Merman at such a vulnerable age explains everything...


Mum's still a bit croaky and on anti-biotics, so here's another letter from last year. When I registered my Power of Attorney over her affairs, I was surprised to find a new account in her portfolio: a telephone account, requiring a password to operate. I was surprised, as this wasn't Mum's sort of thing, so I closed it and moved the balance back into her savings. My guess is that someone from the Bank's marketing department had rung Mum and persuaded her to open this account.

Anyway, amongst all the scraps of paper that were piled on her table or her desk was this letter from the Bank, listing the details of the new account:

Notice that Mum has written: "This offer not taken up" at the bottom of the page. She didn't understand what the letter was about. She thought it was an offer which she decided not to accept when in fact she had already accepted it and this was a confirmation of that decision.

I find that note poignant, a little bit of administration where Mum is trying to demonstrate herself in control of her own affairs but simultaneously showcasing her incomprehension.

Monday 5 May 2008

write it down

Mum was a bit croaky over the phone this weekend, so we decided that I should visit next week instead. So here's something I turned up whilst trying to clear my 'Mum' in-tray. I picked it up from her apartment last time I was down there. It's a letter that was sent to her last year to inform her of an appointment for a scan.

As you can see, it's heavily annotated by Mum, mostly with the same two phone numbers over and over. From my experiences with Mum, I'd say that she kept finding this letter on her dining table, getting concerned about the arrangements and ringing the number at the top of the page. They would have given her the correct number to call (already shown at the bottom of the letter), which she noted down before ringing. Mum's written down the number 12 times on this piece of paper alone, but I'll bet there were other places she wrote these numbers. She could have been doing this at an interval of about 5 minutes or over the course of a week.

I do recall an occasion last year where a scan was brought forward suddenly - I wonder if they just got tired of her ringing?

Just a glimpse into the mind of someone falling into dementia.