Monday 25 August 2008

a dream

In my dream this morning, I was with Mum at a construction site of some sort, maybe apartments. We were wearing hard hats. Mum announced that she needed the toilet, so I was taking her upstairs to the nearest one. She was out in front of me. I remember a spiral staircase and then a balcony area that wrapped around a central atrium. Then Mum sped up and got away from me, lost. I was running around corridors looking for her.

A year ago this would have been a nightmare. Today I just woke up thinking about Pacman.

Thursday 21 August 2008

times are hard

Mum had some visitors today.

D just rang me to tell me that she and my Uncle spent a pleasant afternoon with Mum, taking her out to lunch at the place where we will be hosting her 80th Birthday party later this year. D said that Mum appeared well. They had asked her if she was settled and happy and she had assured them that she was, and had extolled the staff and facilities.

D said, however, that Mum was noticeably quieter than on previous encounters, and that it had been difficult to engage her in conversation. Also, Mum had seemed a good deal more confused than at their last meeting. 

For instance, Mum had announced that they were now forced to sleep two to a bed at the Home, and that the lady sharing her bed last night had rolled over and fallen to the floor.

When I heard this, I wondered whether this was Mum time-travelling back to her Depression-era childhood (Mum was born in 1928 in Boston, Massachusetts). 

D told me that she had questioned a staff member at the home and discovered that the doubling-up idea had originated with Mum's neighbour, who cannot find her way back to her bedroom in the evening and had wandered into Mum's room and exclaimed "do we have to sleep two-to-a-bed now?" The rolling out of bed incident had had happened to another resident ('screaming lady') a few weeks ago.

D told me that when she questioned Mum's version of events, Mum had become uncharacteristically angry and insisted that it had happened exactly as she had described.

Friday 8 August 2008


I just checked and this little pile of boxes cost my Mother £300 (reduced from £480).

The boxes contain pills to combat hair loss (something that Mum obsessed about constantly whilst all the time losing something much more important).

I rescued these (and there were several times this many) from my holistic holocaust a while back, when I threw away all the 'alternative' potions and pills, lotions and sprays I found all over Mum's flat, all of them opened and then stuffed in a drawer, most of them out-of-date.

I rescued these because of their name. I know that it refers to hair, but I'm struck by the irony of "folly grow".

Thursday 7 August 2008

nobody home

It's taken me 8 months to clear Mum's old apartment.

I live 5 hours away by car and I'm usually too exhausted to drive down at the weekend. Those weekends I could spare I've usually visited Mum in her new place rather than get on with this job.

But now it's done. All I have to do is call a handyman to come and touch-up some woodwork in the bathroom, replace the stained carpet there, get the place professionally cleaned, and then I can put it on the market.

Mum was living in this flat for 6 years but you wouldn't know it. She refused to have pictures on the walls, preferring to stack family portraits beside the boiler in the hall cupboard. Maybe she found blank walls soothing. Maybe they mirrored the growing blankness within.

6 years ago, I can remember being annoyed by what seemed Mum's meekness, her wish not to disrupt the authority of the plasterwork. Now I'm grateful that I don't have to have the place redecorated for sale.

Thanks for making it easier for me, Mum.

B*st*rd Lady

Yesterday I was down in Sussex, finally clearing the last of Mum's possessions from her old flat.

On the mantelpiece I found a list Mum had drawn up of all her fellow residents and their flat numbers, perhaps when her memory for names was faltering. Looking down the 27 names, I saw 'Joyce', 'Dori', 'Vanda', 'Barbara'........and 'Bastard Lady'.

I was highly amused. Growing up in this family I certainly never heard my parents use such a word, so it's comical to find my prim Mother even thinking of it. I wonder what the lady in flat 2 ever did to Mum?

Anyway, I spent hours moving heavy trolley-loads out of the flat and taking them either to the charity shop or the local 'household recycling point'. The corridor from Mum's flat is long and twisty and there are double doors at the exit that were hard to navigate on my own with a trolley. Directly by these doors is a communal lounge, where a group of about 15 residents were sitting and passing the day together. I recognised Mum's neighbour and several other faces. I got a nod in return for my 'hello'.

No-one asked about Mum.

No-one stirred to help me with the doors.

Bastard Ladies

Friday 1 August 2008

back to school

I haven't seen Mum for a few weeks and I can't go this weekend.

Even though I've already visited her more times this year than the past 5 put together, it's hard not to feel guilty.

I give her a call. As usual, at the other end it sounds like they're having a great time, laughing away at something as Mum comes to the phone.

"Bums on seats!" I hear someone call out as Mum settles herself.

We have the usual generic conversation, necessary as she can't recall anyone's name there or any activities she may have been engaged in. Typically, Mum gets caught up in the conversation around her for a bit and I'm left with one side of the discussion until she's prompted to talk to me again.

I'm just telling her that I'll visit her next weekend when she stuns me with: "Yes, it's difficult for you with you being at boarding school, isn't it? When you come it can only be for a few hours."

This is another example of Mum explaining the world to herself with the available fragments of memory. It's 33 years since I was at boarding school (a miserable and traumatic period for me), where I was only allowed out for a few hours on a Sunday.

Recently I've tended to visit on a Sunday and my visits have typically been from lunchtime through to early evening. So I can see why that particular jigsaw piece seemed like a good fit for her.

It's still a shock whenever she does this, though. And shocking in the context of our family, where my incarceration has never been discussed as it used to upset me so much. Her mention of it felt like a slap but I know it was entirely innocent.

The irony is not lost on me that I've now been the one to uproot her and place her in a Home not so very far from that dreadful institution...