Fred became Freddy, became Freddy Furrybum, Freddy Cat, Freddy Supercat, The Fredster (to my Australian friends), Ridiculously Handsome Boy, Monkey, Freddypops, Big Ears, Freddybabes (after spending a weekend with a couple who called everyone Babes), Angel Paws, Trigger (when he raced from one end of the garden to the other), Baby Bear, Little Lion, Mighty Hunter, FreddyFredFred, Treehugger (when he embraced the tree that was his favourite scratching place other than my bed), and formally and officially, Freddy the Gorgeous Boy. Online he was Cat to protect his identity and privacy. He was my cat, but he was Mother’s by extension. She loved seeing him. He didn’t judge her for losing her memory. He just accepted her and greeted her with pleasure each time they met, and treated her home as his.
I saw Mother in hospital this afternoon. She was sitting out in a comfortable chair, distractedly watching the comings and goings of staff, patients and visitors. A cup of coffee was in front of her. She doesn’t drink coffee. There was some apple juice in a container she couldn’t possibly open without getting covered in the stuff. She grasped my hand and told me Isobel was coming to see her later.
“I am Isobel.”
“You are Isobel. Oh darling. What have I done wrong?”
Often teasing works best when she is agitated as she will suddenly see the joke, smile and laugh and we can refocus.
“My goodness, where shall I start?” I grinned at her, demanded a kiss and perched on the side of her bed.
Not a good idea. I was on her wrong ear and towering above her. I went off in search of a chair.
A nursing assistant came up, “Can we take your blood pressure?” she asked Mother.
“Don’t ask her questions,” I hissed as a look of mild panic crossed Mother’s face, unsure what the right answer to this question might be, “Tell her you need to take her blood pressure.”
I read Mother a few poems and she patted my hand in time to the rhythms. When she seemed more settled, I got out the manicure set and began on her nails.
The Ward Manager came over for a chat. She seems an emminently sensible person who is well aware that hospital is not a place where Mother is thriving or likely to. She remarked on the change in her just being with me. Mother listened carefully and nodded at various points, then began to watch the passersby again and comment on the activity. She was starting to get agitated again.
I held her hand, and talked with the Ward Manager about the discharge date I could see above Mother’s bed: 14th April 2011. Thursday.
It turns out this is a meeting with people from the scheme about whether will be able to go back there. I felt despair welling. Mother is not showing what she is capable of in this environment, and is being underestimated. Last week it was suggested to me that she might have lost the cognitive ability to walk as she wasn’t co-operating with the physios. But now she’s up and walking; not because the physios want her to, but because she is feeling better and ready to move around. Except that in hospital independent walking is not greatly encouraged because she hasn’t got anywhere to go. This meeting could go either way.
Suddenly she said “Freddy. Freddy. He’s your cat isn’t he?”
This in itself was amazing as Mother usually calls him a little dog.
“That’s right,” I said.
“Freddy was with me,” she said.
“Yes, at your flat.”
“I do love him.”
“Yes. Me too.”
Freddy the Gorgeous Boy. A truly magical cat.