Sunday 22 March 2009

who's who

We're sitting downstairs in the café, for a change. I'm wolfing down a huge salad I bought en-route and Mum is eating her way through my gift of a box of Krispy-Kremes. As usual, I have asked what she's been up to these past few weeks and she has no idea.

Then suddenly she says: "We saw a movie yesterday. It was called [Mum's name]"

I put 2 + 2 together and realise that the DVD slideshow I made for Mum's 80th Birthday has re-surfaced. It seems that she watched it this time.

Upstairs, the Chief Care Worker tells me that Mum watched it with a few others and they were asking who everyone was and she was narrating each photo. They're mostly the same pictures I put in her digital photo frame which, as usual, I have to turn on when we get to her room. The first picture that comes up is my Father in his 20s, about the time that they met.

"Now, you'll be able to tell me," she says, "Who is HE?"

Monday 9 March 2009

moving along

Mum has been using a walking frame for the past few weeks. Unlike the one here, hers has wheels on the two rear legs. I remember her adamance, in years gone by, that she would NEVER accept one. But, as with everything around her these days, Mum thinks the frame is marvellous. She is blessed that her particular brand of Dementia is the Pollyanna variety. Looking around at the faces at dinner time I can see compulsion, fear, torpor, disorientation, even malice. Mum floats above it all, serene.

But we have less and less in the way of conversation these days. She cautiously asks me how "work" is going, and I can tell she's feeling her way through a dark cave. In pity for her I decide not to be a jagged rock wall and tell her that work is going fine. In turn, she has no news to report, even though I know they had a comedy troupe visit them only today in the run-up to a national day of charity fund-raising.

In the couple of hours I'm there, she only needs the toilet once, which I take as a sign that she is less nervous around me tonight. I watch her glide off slowly down the corridor to her room, standing ramrod straight with the frame before her - as if she's holding onto the rail of a launch which is ferrying her across the Grand Canal.

I count her steps - at every 6th or 7th step she will hesitate, as if suddenly she can't recall how to move her legs.

Friday 6 March 2009

money, money, money

I drove down to Sussex again last weekend, determined to tackle the last of the jobs that stood in the way of disposing of Mum's old apartment. The place has been empty now since I cleared it of furniture last Summer, and I've been slack in tackling these last few issues. Of course, I wish I'd been able to get things moving with a sale last year, before the credit crisis and subsequent slide in the housing market. It galls me to think that, for the sake of a few cosmetic touches prior to sale, I've watched the value of the place slide by probably £40,000 (possibly more).

Anyway, it's all done now. My biggest concern was the bathroom, which looked tired and unhealthy, with a badly-stained carpet and flaky and swollen MDF cabinetry. Over the course of Sunday and Monday, I sanded and painted the woodwork and cut and fitted a new carpet, whilst clearing the cupboards of the million things that I'd actually left behind the last time I thought I'd "emptied" the place. I worked into the early hours, cleaning every surface as I went (not bad going for someone on 700 calories per day at the moment!) I think the bathroom is acceptable now, and hopefully won't put off any prospective purchasers. Still, those are expensive repairs, when I think about it.

It was one of those "my life is guided" weekends. If I hadn't been at the apartment, I might never have known, but I chose to go on the spur of the moment and ended up witnessing a dramatic event. The Warden/House Manager there, who has been wonderfully supportive over the past 4 years, was arrested for stealing blank cheques to write out for himself. The aggrieved parties had copies of cheques retrieved from their Banks, and I saw them written out in his unmistakeable handwriting for figures in thousands. One Lady, since deceased, had lost £92,000 to him. The place was in uproar. The Police held a meeting in the Lounge to inform us of the progress of their investigation and to exhort us to check our Bank records.

I feared that Mum would have been a victim, given her extreme disfunction with money, which I'd often discussed with the House Manager, but I've since had a look at her records and can't see any suspicious large cheques, thankfully. It still feels quite unreal. I don't think I should upset Mum by telling her about all this and spoiling her fond memories of the man, but at the same time she is the only person I know that I could discuss this with and I'm still reeling with the shock of it all.

The flat is now listed and it's a question of waiting to see if there's any interest out there.