“Hello dear. I don’t suppose you’ve got any work to do, have you?”
It wasn’t quite the greeting I’d expected when I popped in to see Mum yesterday. It could have been a reference to the fact that it was 11 o’clock in the morning and I wasn’t “at work” but I suspect not. More likely, it followed on from a conversation Mum had overheard or perhaps it was part of an internal dialogue to which no-one was else was party.
Increasingly, Mum will say or do things which bear no relation to anything which has gone before, at least not to me. It possibly makes complete sense to her. Yesterday, as I’d been telling her about how I’d been working in several different places since I last saw her, she looked at her hands:
“It’s such a mess. They’re useless.”
It could have been a reference to chipped nail varnish or the fact that Mum can’t move all her fingers independently any more. It could, I suppose, have been her way of saying that what I was telling her was monumentally boring and her nail varnish – chipped or not – was of more interest. I didn’t ask which. In the past, I have asked Mum what she meant and she couldn’t say. Probing only leads to pain.
I told Mum about an event Mary and I had attended in Birmingham last Thursday. We’d spoken at a Marks and Spencer Charity Ball in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society. Being interviewed about my Mum by my wife on a balcony overlooking a room of 300 hungry, diners, some in masks, was a novel experience but a pleasant one. M&S have pledged to create a dementia-friendly workforce by putting all their staff through the Dementia Friends awareness programme. (It’s not just a refreshing initiative, it’s a refreshing M&S initiative). It’s a startling fact that, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, one in four people living with dementia have lost confidence to go shopping even though it makes them feel connected to their community. So often, dementia means isolation, for people with dementia and their carers alike.
I recounted the experience to Mum, telling her that M&S staff in the West Midlands now know all about her. She laughed. I don’t know whether what I was saying made sense to Mum. Nor do I worry about it. What she says often doesn’t make sense to me and I’m sure what I say rarely strikes a chord with her. But, holding hands and laughing, we make sense of something – that we’re together in that moment. Words mean nothing. Smiles mean everything.