A good friend of mine lost his mother just before Christmas. He’s become a friend through dementia – his, his parents’ and Mum’s. I saw a message from him, posted on social media, on Boxing Day, responding to condolences from another “dementia friend”. She “always encouraged me to the best I could be,” he said. I haven’t read a better epitaph for as long as I can remember. This second “dementia friend” also posted a message, about how much he misses his Mum.
Unlike these two friends, I can still see Mum as often as I want, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss her too. I was with her early on Christmas morning, just as I’ve been for all but three of my 51 Christmases. If you’re interested, two were spent with girlfriends (different ones, though neither relationship lasted too long) and one was spent on honeymoon (14 years ago and I’m so happy that relationship still thrives). Christmas was always a time for family and even though it seems to mean nothing to Mum now, I wouldn’t miss spending some time with her.
My gift to her this year was a memory blanket – a blanket 0f photos from Mum’s life. As is usually the case these days, she had to be cajoled into unwrapping and having removed one piece of sellotape (other adhesives are available I’m told) she gave up.
“Go on Mum.”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Let’s do it together.”
“You do it.”
And so, I opened the present I’d so lovingly and so inexpertly wrapped for her. She removed the blanket and was rather underwhelmed. I don’t expect much these days.
There were many faces from Mum’s past, smiling up at her from the blanket. There appeared no recognition and so I pointed at photos, identifying people as I went. I ran through a family group photo, taken on Mum’s 70th birthday almost eight years ago (how carefree that day seems, recollected today). I named everyone on the photo, literally Mum’s nearest and dearest.
“Well done dear,” she said when I finished. I couldn’t help laughing. In Mum’s eyes, I’d passed my memory test. No need to worry yet then.
I’m grateful that, unlike my two friends, I can still spend time with Mum on Christmas Day. But sad, too. I hope you understand why.