I had to make a detour to reach Mother. There had been an accident and the police closed the road. It must have been nasty as the road was still closed several hours later when I came back. There was a fire engine there too.
The usual smell of air freshener met me as I buzzed to be let in. In some ways reaching Mother is like going into a prison. Without the razor wire. I am not allowed the codes, and can only move into one area before needing help to access the next. Not that anyone ever asks who I am.
Mother clutched me and said she had been worrying. Nothing new there. Mother could win Olympic gold in worrying. I kept calling her Mum, but she didn’t call me Isobel, so I doubt if she knew who I was. She was looking very summery in light weight pink and white check seersucker trousers I got her last year, with a mauve t shirt and mauve fleece. Her feet were in fleecy pink socks.
We went to her room. She needed the loo, so I took the tops off the hangers, folded them up and put them in the chest of drawers.
She wanted a drink and asked for hot chocolate. A good choice as she drained it immediately and did the same with the second cup I requested. I trimmed and cleaned her nails. She worked the lavender hand cream into her skin obediently. I sprayed us both with the new lavender eau de toilette I had bought her for Easter.

We started with Yeats, rolled on with Wordsworth and Masefield, pulled the stops out with Browning and Mother recited The Lord’s My Shepherd. Which reminds me, I must get her hymn book from Aunt.
She enjoyed Jenny Joseph’s Warning, beamed at The Listeners, and smiled happily at The Owl and the Pussycat.
I found a poem I hadn’t read before about an airman. I don’t remember the poet’s name, but he was born in 1922 and died in 1941. I am guessing he was a pilot with the RAF and died in the Second World War. Mother responded as if she knew it, with an appreciative aah.
She held my hand, squeezing it to the rhythm of the words, nodded and smiled. It was lovely to see her settled and happy.
Her eyelids started to droop, and I guessed she needed a break. At her flat, this is when I would have done the washing up, peeled vegetables, got on with things and given her space. It’s harder in a room.
I left her to get a drink of water, loitering in the lounge to give her time to nod off. On the way beck to her room, I heard her saying, “Have I done something wrong?” Another resident, still ambulant but whose mental confusion and turmoil make me realise that Mother could be much worse, was standing by Mother, wringing her hands and opening and closing her mouth.
I sat down again, and told Mother not to worry. Mother looked anxiously at Shirley and said, “Are you alright, dear? Do you need anything?”
Shirley’s eyes flitted constantly between Mother and me. Last time I was there she followed me and then showed me a folder of photographs, saying clearly, “Mother” and pointing at a picture of herself with her mother and her siblings. It would break your heart.
A carer came. It was time for tea. So I told Mother she was the best mum in the world, demanded a hug and a kiss, followed her and the carer to the dining room, returned to the ground floor, found someone to let me out, and drove, badly, back to the marina.

Not a picture of the visit, but somehow it feels appropriate.


19 thoughts on “Mother

  1. Thank you for sharing this eloquent story. The image is perfect~ I gasped a little when I scrolled down and saw it. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but you and your mother are both fortunate. May you be blessed

  2. Hi Isobel, I found your blog through Pix at the Under The Oaks Blog. I’ve been reading your posts for a while, but haven’t commented until now. This post made me want to speak up and say thank you. I volunteered for years at a local home for the elderly, most of whom had dementia or Alzheimer’s… very few of whom received visits from their families. I hope you know how special your visits are for your mom.

  3. Glad you were able to spend some time with your Mother yesterday – it’s lovely that you two enjoy poetry during your visits and she responds. I remember with my Mom I was always so very grateful for those “good” days. Your photo perfectly illustrates the feeling…….adrift in the muddle….but still floating.

    Pam (and Sam)

  4. I can only imagine how difficult and heartbreaking this situation must be for you.
    I have no similar experience to draw on.
    You have her, but you don’t have her.
    I’m sorry.
    I hope NotCat was a comfort when you got back.

  5. I do share the feelings all your friends have put into words for you. I’m so comforted to see there’s hope even when it seems there isn’t. She really appreciates your reading poems aloud for her. This is really the thread that keeps you both in meaningful touch.
    Thank you for sharing, Isobel.

    • Thank-you, Maria. As you can imagine, I ponder why Mother enjoys this so much. I believe it is not only the words and the rhythms, but also that she can enjoy something without having to respond to questions, so it reduces anxiety and is a much more satisfying shared time than attempts at conversation.

      • This makes me think my interaction with my own mother who is now 92 and is gradually loosing her ability for basic logical mind functions as well as her flexibility and ability for quick reactions both physical and mental. Responding worries her.

        • I am sorry to hear that, Maria. I had visions of your mother marching on with all her faculties intact. As a general rule of thumb, with dementia don’t contradict or correct and don’t ask questions. There is an interesting book called Contented Dementia by Oliver James. It may be translated into Spanish, or Catalan if you are lucky.

        • Oh! I’m sorry you I worried you about mum.
          Doctors say she is only very old and that all her lose of brightness, flexibility and quickness is normal for her age and due to the aging process.
          And this process is very hard to cope with for mum, who was used to be independent, self catering and volounteering to help other elder people until very very recently. (I invite you to watch this video in You Tube that was taken las July in her home when she had been nominated for a solidarity prize; look for CARME BIRULÉS). Now she still lives on her own (with MUCH outside help) and keeps to her activities: she read the headlines and visits old people at their homes, she helps feeding old people in old people nursing homes, she helps learning Catalan to non native speakers, goes swimming in a swimming pool and attends English classes for old people. And looks after her as much as she can. But she is very aware of how lod she is and is getting and suffers from the loss of her faculties and having to depend instead of being able to help!

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