16 years ago today, I was preparing to get married. It was the happiest day of my life. 16 years on, I’m preparing to go to work, listening to a trailer for a programme to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 this evening. Suppose I Lose It is about dementia and focusses on an interview conducted by Joan Bakewell with her great friends, the actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales. They talk, movingly and honestly, about her (Prunella’s) dementia.
Mum was a central figure on our wedding day in 2000. She’d worked tirelessly all week to help us prepare, beetling backwards and forwards from home to the church and the venue for the reception. When I sat with her yesterday, I wanted to talk to Mum about it, reminiscing about that winter’s day at the start of the new century, a century so rich with promise. I mentioned it but as she doesn’t recognise my wife, it’s not surprising that she seems to have no recollection of December 16th 2000 or the days around it.
Back to the Radio 4 trailer, I was particularly moved by Prunella Scales’ accounts of writing lists to post around the house. A feature of my visits to Mum before she had to move to a care home was the abundance of lists which dotted the house. Initially, they seemed designed to remind of what she had to do. Increasingly, they contained details of what she’d just done:
“Duncan rang this evening. Had a lovely chat.”
I found those heartbreaking. In Suppose I Lose It, Timothy West talks about his wife asking the same question several times in quick succession. I recall Mum telling me the same thing four or five times in one short visit. How maddening that seemed at the time, when I was just learning about dementia. How I wish Mum could do that now. Now, she tells me almost nothing because nothing appears to stay with her for more than a few minutes.
I’ll listen to the whole programme this evening, possibly with a tear or two, remembering the happiest day of my life and Mum, as she was that day – beautiful, inside and out, and happy, above all happy.