Remembering the New Dress

Mum describes a rare outing in the car – for a doctor’s appointment in the city.

‘Was it Limerick you went to, Ma?’ I ask.

No, she says, ‘no, it wasn’t Limerick.’

It was. So I persevere. I never know whether I should – but if I don’t, if I don’t sometimes gently nudge to correct the slipping, the stories I want to tell to keep her tethered will have no basis.

‘Did you go over a bridge – cross a big river?’

‘Oh yes!’ She says.

That’s Limerick, I tell her.

Oh. She says. A small oh.

I swiftly pick up the conversation, to stop that sorrowful little gap, ‘I’ve been there with you, Ma, a long time ago.’

‘Have you?’

And there it is: my cue to narrate something of her broken past, my chance to remind her she was once whole and autonomous. An opportunity to remedy, briefly, some small part of this loss.

‘You took me there to buy a dress for Amelia’s graduation.’

‘Did I?’  And she sounds astounded – astounded that once there was the agency, the ability – to find her way to, around, a city.  And she sounds delighted, delighted that she could once do something for somebody. She could once drive me to the city my brother drove her to today.

I describe finding a dress after much searching, I describe taking it back to hers, trying it on again and realising that it was too big, it hung from my shoulders and dipped around my neck.

Disappointed, I took it back, with mum.  And whilst in the store, I nipped downstairs, to the sales racks, and there was the same dress, a size smaller and at a fraction of the original price.

Mum laughs at my story, now: ‘Oh how wonderful: that you found the right dress for less money!’ She can feel the small thrill of successful retail therapy again. I describe the lunch we ate in a cafe on the river, I tell her about the shoes we found to go with my new dress afterwards.

Mum says, ‘So much of my memory has gone, so much. I seem only to remember the sad bits.’

And I wonder what she means – sad bits: dad’s death? Her long battle with depression?

I tell her, ‘Mum, there were tons of good bits, tons, we’ll keep them safe for you, I’ll remind you.’

And she smiles, I watch her on my small screen, ‘thank you’, she says, ‘thank you, that would be good.’

One Response to “Remembering the New Dress”

  1. Addy Says:

    You are so good to engage her in conversation and to dredge for the memories she has forgotten. It must also give her something new to ponder over. Dementia is a bugger.

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