This is the first post of my 51st year. Many happy returns? Why, thank you. I reached my half century on Saturday and celebrated with a fabulous party – well, I certainly enjoyed it. 80 or so friends, ranging from my best mate at primary school in the early 70s to people we’ve got to know since settling in Warwickshire, helped to make it a very special day. Saying a few words to the gathering, I couldn’t help but make reference to two people who were missing but who would have enjoyed it almost as much as I did. My late father loved meeting my friends, wasting no time in discussing me as if I wasn’t there. For instance, on the night before my wedding, he thought it his duty to run through every former girlfriend (there weren’t that many) with my best woman and her husband. It wasn’t top of my agenda for polite pre-nuptial discussion but that mattered not.
Mum – too – loved to chat to people I’d grown up with. How she’d have relished Saturday evening. I looked around the garden of the pub and I could see her there. Afterwards a friend whose father has Alzheimer’s came over and we had a little sob together. Better out than in.
Until yesterday morning, some 18 hours after the party, I had no idea of the drama that had preceded it. On Saturday morning, Mum was unwell, fainted twice and was taken to hospital for tests. She’s fine – it might have been the heat although the hospital staff couldn’t readily explain what had happened. I knew nothing of this. My sister, who took the call from the care home, and my wife decided not to tell me, although that decision would have been reviewed if Mum’s condition had become more of a concern. Fortunately, it didn’t although Mum’s experience, and that of my sister, reinforced the problems experienced by people living with dementia in hospital. Asking Mum questions like her date of birth, or even how much she’d had to eat, is a pointless exercise. The Warwickshire Campaign group, of which I’m a member, is currently working with local hospitals to explore care for patients with dementia. It isn’t the fault of the staff, especially in a busy accident and emergency department, and some hospitals are developing innovative procedures in this area.
But back to Mum. I went to see her today and she has no memory of the weekend’s events. She was slightly perturbed by the bruising on her arms, the visible results of attempts to take blood samples. Otherwise, though, Mum was in top form, brighter than I’d seen her for some time. I told her all about the party, hoping that somewhere inside, some details registered. There was no outward indication. Mum was in particularly fine voice when we sang though. While sometimes she watches my lips for clues about the next line, today she had little need for prompts, giving full voice to Oh What a Beautiful Morning. Strangely, though, Pickin’ a Chicken has become Pickin a Kickin’, sung with particular gusto. At one point, as we were bringing each other sunshine with help from Eric and Ernie, Mum laughed:
Perhaps I am. But singing with Mum is now the most natural thing in the world to me. It’s the way we connect:
“Bring me fun/ bring me sunshine/ bring me love.”