I went to see Mum again yesterday for the first time since “that visit” when she hadn’t known me. I have to admit I approached my return with a good deal of trepidation but Mum’s smile when I walked through the door suggested she knew my face at least. I’m not sure she knew why she knew me, and I have to accept that the mother-son bond is gone forever (I choke inside even as I write those words) but she did seem pleased to see me.
We made our way to the smaller sitting room – Mum tottering but refusing any assistance – and sat down. I can’t say the conversation flowed – to be honest, a trickle would have been welcome. Mum’s responses were restricted to a couple of words at most – always polite of course – but there was no sign of a connection between us. Where once she’d have been consumed by what I’d been up to and where I’d been, now there’s a barely-perceptible nod and a numbing platitude. I’m aware that might sound bitter and that’s now how I mean it. It’s just….sad.
So, thank goodness for Cocoa. Cocoa, a chocolate-brown golden labrador in case you were wondering, belongs to one of the staff and spends Monday to Friday as a tail-wagging, life-enhancing presence around the place. She seems to have a special affinity with Mum and barely left us during my stay. Mum grew up with dogs – as a girl, she once found herself in all kinds of trouble for giving the family pet of the time a haircut – and we had a dog from the late seventies until Mum’s beloved spaniel Herbie died more than a decade ago. So, it’s natural that Mum should respond so openly to Cocoa and I’m delighted that she (Cocoa) seems so fond of Mum. In fact, as Mum paid more attention to Cocoa than to me, I began to feel a little envious. is that what my relationship with Mum boils down to – jealous of a part-time pet?
To be serious, though, Cocoa is part of Mum’s shrunken world and I’m grateful for that. She gives Mum a focus and unlike some of the the residents of the home, she seems to be able to do no wrong. And, most importantly yesterday, she gave Mum and I some common ground – a point of focus we could share.
So, thank you Cocoa for the part you play in Mum’s life.