When you talk or even think about a loved one with dementia, it’s very easy to focus on what’s gone, not what remains. I’m as guilty as the next person. I found myself thinking those very thoughts as I took to the M40 to visit Mum this week. Last Saturday would have been my father’s 75th birthday and in different circumstances, Mum would have been creating in the kitchen while Dad held forth on something or other, over a glass or three. Memories of joyous family celebrations in years gone by inevitably surfaced. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Those memories are wonderfully sustaining in darker moments.
I pondered on the fact that Mum has no memory of those happy times and, to the best of my understanding, has no memory of my father either. Married for 46 years, forgotten in what seems like an instant. How cruel, how very, very cruel.
And so I arrived at Mum’s a little short of my perky best. I’d been doing exactly what I’ve told myself not to do. I’d lingered on what we’ve lost and not concentrated on Mum as she is now. I tried to put that right as I sat with her in the lounge. As is always the case these days, conversation was difficult but we smiled and held hands. Those smiles are worth more to me than any words. They’re my new memories.
I’ve mentioned previously a recent visit to see Mum with two of her oldest friends, Pam and Carole.
I’m not sure whether she recognised either of them – nothing she said suggested she did and yet it was a happy occasion, full of smiles. I could tell Mum was pleased to have some company, if only for a little while. I don’t know how many of her old friends pop in to see her these days. On our return journey, we spoke of old times but we also talked about Mum as she is today, about who she is today. Carole remarked that my father had loved taking trips down memory lane, a habit I’ve inherited. But with Mum, it’s all about living in the present, about making each moment count. It isn’t easy but that doesn’t mean I won’t try.