Guessing Names

When I call mum today, she tells me all about a young person who speaks to her every day.

‘She calls me every single day’, she says, ‘without fail; she’s so good.’

She tries to explain to me who this paragon is.

‘I think she is the daughter. Of somebody. I think she has a brother and a sister. Or maybe two sisters.  I can’t remember.’

I imagine then that she is speaking about one of her granddaughters. One of my girls, who call her sporadically. But I know my own girls are too busy – behind screens, one teaching (in a large London school), one being taught, her Masters – to call every single day.

I offer her their names but no, it’s not them.

And then she reveals other details of this person who calls her every day – ‘we don’t talk for long, just a little chat, but it’s so lovely.’

What she tells me reveals she is talking about my sister. Who is also a busy teacher and who, yesterday, texted to say, ‘haven’t spoken to mum for a few days, I try often but she doesn’t pick up.’

The last time I saw mum, just before this pandemic broke, she forgot who I was. Just like that. One day she was sure, the next she accused me of being a stranger. She had been staying with me for two months.  We had sat opposite each other every single day those two months for every single meal. We had walked together. We had played cards. But that day – I’d vanished.

When my sister arrived to join us several days later, she confided in her, told about this imposter claiming a relationship with her. 

It stung. More than stung. I cried and felt deeply bruised at her sudden distancing and distrust of me, closing me out of her bedroom at night with a ‘no thank you, I don’t need your help with my medication, my daughter will help me’, gesturing my sister.

I am no longer stung. I know that there is nothing personal about mum’s failing memory. It pulls from the wreckage some things, the rest drowns. One day I rise to the surface so she can pluck me from it, the next I sink right out of sight.

I am no longer stung.

And I will keep calling her every day.

2 Responses to “Guessing Names”

  1. Addy Says:

    Dementia is a bugger. That must really hurt…and yet to know it is not deliberate but an awful component of the disease must help. It is almost as if the person is hurtling backwards through their life and disappearing from the far end, oblivious of the world and who their loved ones are. Sending more (((hugs))).

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you Addy XX it is a bugger. and yes, that’s exactly what it’s like: as if they’re hurtling backward. thank you for reading and for so often commenting with such supportive words. I hope you are well x

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