By chance, while searching for something entirely different in the attic, I came across a cassette recorded in 1977. For younger readers, a cassette was a vessel which contained an audio recording. It was quite state of the art back then. I filled dozens with recordings of chart shows from Radio 1. That passed for entertainment in those far-off days. For some reason I can’t fathom at this distance, this cassette featured – amongst other things – my sister and I performing Britain’s Eurovision Song Content entry for that year, an eminently-forgettable ditty called Rock Bottom. If memory of the contest itself serves me, the title was quite appropriate.
The reason I mention this is because, elsewhere in the recording, were my grandfather and grandmother, Mum’s parents. Grandpa was 74 at the time, only three years younger than Mum is now, and the same age as Mum was when she had to go into residential care. He was always a lively character but what struck me, listening today, was how young and sharp he sounded. Always quick to make a joke, always ready to put his spin on any conversation. Mum and he were very close and I remember the morning he died, how Mum woke me up after taking the call from the hospital. I’d never seen her inconsolable before. His passing left a large hole in our family.
29 years on, I still miss him. Cue gratuitous photograph.
The reason I mention it is that it reminded me again how young Mum was when dementia claimed her. My sister and I have so many happy memories of precious times spent with our grandparents, similar to times the family could be spending with Mum today. Occasionally, and it is only occasionally, I feel an urge to scream at the injustice of it all. Losing Dad to cancer was one thing, losing Mum to dementia is something very different.
One thing I can confidently report is that my singing today is slightly better than it was in 1977 as a 12 year old (soon to be 13) whose voice was breaking. I wouldn’t go further than slightly but Mum and I belted out a mean Do Re Mi from The Sound of Music today. Mum’s cough was still bothering her a little so we kept our concert shorter – no encores this time – but as I led her through Catch a Falling Star, Mum guffawed:
“You’re enjoying this aren’t you!”
Well, yes I am, but the idea is for you to enjoy it as well. Then it struck me that she was taking her pleasure through mine. Sometimes I worry when trying to engage Mum in conversation, straining for a subject which might strike a chord with her, however faint. Perhaps, if I appear engaged and animated, that’s enough for her to feel part of the conversation, even if she doesn’t have a clue what I’m burbling on about.
So, I did enjoy my time with Mum today. And, I hope, she enjoyed her time with me.