Bad Memories

I prompt mum.

‘You remember? You remember…’

And I cite an occasion, a place, a person.

Often she looks blank but then, so as not to disappoint me because, apparently, judging by my insistence, the way I nudge her arm and fix my gaze upon her, it’s important to her daughter that she remember, she says ‘Yes’, obligingly, obediently, but her brow is creased with a question mark.

I know when she really does remember and when she does not.

And so sometimes, if her humour is good, if she is well rested, if I am confident that pressing harder will not cause distress, and if the remembering is important to the tale I am recounting so that we can indulge in some continuum to the story, I add more detail, to the occasion, the place, the person. I hope that in colouring the picture in, I may throw it into sharper relief so she really will remember.

And then, sometimes, as I accentuate my description with detail, delight floods her expression, ‘oh yes!’, she exclaims and then I know she really does remember.

And then it feels like a small, delicious victory.


Mum and I are walking, we are talking about things that have been.

‘You remember Mum? You remember …’

She thinks then tilts her head and smiles, ‘Sometimes’, she says, ‘sometimes I don’t remember everything and sometimes I think that’s a good thing; I think I have forgotten some of the things that used to make me sad’.

And I laugh. ‘That’s good, Mum; bad memories aren’t worth hanging onto.’


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