Loving someone with dementia, I used to feel I needed a map to help me find a way to reach Mum. Sadly, a structured approach – painting by numbers if you like – doesn’t necessarily work. I try to fill the black and white template with colourful memories but Mum seems to have virtually no memory of her past, or none than she can articulate.
I took an old photograph album with me yesterday. It features holiday snaps from Westgate -on-Sea in Kent from 1948 and 49, all of which seemed to feature “Mrs Brookes” (Mum had carefully annotated each photo). Quite who ” Mrs Brookes” is or rather was is a mystery. Needless to say, Mum couldn’t remember. Suddenly, her identity seemed important but I’m not sure there’s anyone who can provide an answer to the question.
To start with, Mum was enthused by the album:
“How interesting…” but her attention soon wavered.
Mine did too and besides, one of Mum’s carers had something to show me – a picture of a different sort. It was a partially coloured-in image of an animal from a children’s colouring book. Mum had carefully coloured in something which looked like a branch in a vibrant yellow. The face of the animal sitting on said branch was a little less tidy with a random patches of bright red. Mum would tell me off gently if I was so careless in my colouring in younger days. Come to think of it, I always was. I looked at the picture, at Mum and her carer. For a fleeting moment, a thought hit me:
Is this what my Mum’s life has come to? Some haphazard colouring in a book designed for toddlers.
Of course it isn’t and I instantly chastised myself. I played some music to lighten the mood. The selection was on shuffle and on came a song which Mum and I both love(d) but which didn’t help the mood – Passing Strangers by Billy Ecksteine and Sarah Vaughan:
“We seem like passing strangers now/Funny how things can change…”