Mum was in quite a jolly mood today. Even the incessant drilling in the office below her bedroom didn’t seem to worry her too much. I’d taken her the latest copy of a magazine she used to love reading, “Worcestershire Life”. The current edition has a picture of the television presenter Nick Owen on the front.
“Oh”, exclaimed Mum with a smile, “that’s the old chap.” (Sorry Nick).
The last couple of times I’ve taken her a magazine, Mum has shown scant interest, turning several pages at a time, with no discernible interest in any of the content. Today was different. She looked closely at many of the photographs, pointing at individuals. This, I thought, was very encouraging.
“It’s the family,” she exclaimed with a smile. She identified a small, un-named girl as my youngest niece. The whole page was taken up with photos of a society gathering somewhere in Worcestershire. In all, there must have been at least 40 different faces. Until that moment, I had no idea I had such a large and obviously well-to-do family. Though slightly disconcerting, the idea that she knew all these people obviously gave Mum a lot of pleasure. When she recognises so few of the faces in her photograph albums – some of whom have been friends for more than 50 years – it’s strangely comforting that Mum feels she recognises people she doesn’t know. The alternative – to have her feeling that she didn’t know anyone at all is too distressing to contemplate.
On she ploughed, through “Worcestershire Life” until she reached the article about the aforementioned Mr Owen.
“Oh, that’s what’s his name.”
An improvement I thought. Less of the old this time. There were various photos of Nick Owen from his broadcasting past, including one with my comedy hero.
“Oh look”, she said delightedly and without hesitation, “it’s Eric Morecambe.”
How can you make sense of a disease which means that Mum often can’t recognise the man to whom she was married for 46 years but instantly knows a comedian she’s only ever seen on television? The answer is you can’t and I’ve given up trying. There’s no logic to what sticks or has stuck in Mum’s mind, and what hasn’t. I do, though, take comfort from the obvious pleasure Mum took in seeing “the old chap” with the comedian.
In fact, it seems to me Mum’s mind is sometimes playing the right notes but not necessarily in the right order. Now where have I heard that phrase before?