From the moment Mum was given the chilling diagnosis, I knew this day would come. That knowledge hasn’t made the experience any less painful though. Today, for the first time, I really don’t think Mum knew who I was. I’ve been reliving this morning’s visit in the hours since I left and I know that relatives of those with dementia can be guilty of analysing time spent with that loved one too much. We look too readily for signs, initially positive but increasingly negative. And I know I mustn’t read too much into today. It might be that Mum was just having an off day or perhaps she was especially tired. But the fact remains that there was barely a flicker of recognition when I arrived and the hesitant smile might just have been a response to my beaming grin. (That can be enough to put off even the most resilient). Mum smiled because I was smiling at her and therefore she thought she must know me.
There was no move to get out of her seat and when I suggested we find a quiet spot to chat, her response was: “If you want to.” Mum has always insisted on introducing me to the staff but not on my last two visits. If anything, she seemed a little unsure why she was following this man into another sitting room.
I’d taken a magazine with me – Worcestershire Life – and as we made our way through the pages of luxury mansions for sale, I suggested we might buy that one for her because it had a fully-equipped gym (I think her last visit to a gyn was probably in the year she left school) or that one because it boasted a recording studio. She laughed and immediately wandered off, her attention seized by another resident. My departure, after about twenty minutes, was – if I’m honest – a relief to both of us. That is a phrase I’d hoped I’d never write.
As I say, I might have misread the signs and next time, she might take my arm and say, with what i like to interpret as a degree of pride: “This is my son.” I hope so with all my heart. I do wonder, though, whether I’ve heard those words for the last time.