Know my Name

The first thing mum says to me when she picks up my call today is, ‘I have been having an argument with Sam, I hope you will be able to clear things up for me’.

Sam is my twenty something nephew. He lives with my brother – and so, by extension, with mum, his grandmother.   The argument erupted over lunch which mum has just had.  I can hear residual kitchen conversation in the background.

Sure mum, I say. I imagine the disagreement will have been about coronavirus or perhaps something topical, something about geography or religion or even politics.  All things mum once took an energetic interest in. The things she’d still like to take an interest in if only she could remember the names of all the players, of all the places.

‘Sam says I have a daughter called Anthea. I don’t.’

For a second, a single second, I think my heart stops, and then I say, ‘You do, mum: that’s me; I’m Anthea’ and then, ‘to make myself feel better, to take the sting out of all this, to make Mum laugh, I say, ‘I’m your favourite child, remember.’

Mum would have laughed once.  Not that long ago she laughed loud at exactly those words:

‘I’m your favourite child!’

I dont have favourites, she said that day, ‘I love you all the same’.

Now she just says, ‘oh’ in a very small voice. And I dont know if the ‘oh’ is because Sam was right. 

Or because she has a daughter called Anthea.

I dont feel the sadness until later. Somehow the shock dulls the soreness; like a slap on the cheek, you don’t feel the burn for a bit. There is a brief spell of nothing. You are numb.  I dont’ feel it until I confess the incident to my sister. I tell her in a voice note. In a tone of humour and levity. She is not fooled, ‘my heart breaks for you’, she says and I can hear tears on her words.   

Why does it feel like a confession – this owning up to mum not remembering me?  Like something I am ashamed of. That my mother has forgotten she has a daughter by my name. This is not personal. I know this. I tell myself this often. But have I failed her in some way that she is erasing me first?

I do what I have done before. I tell my children:  Remember this. If I ever ever, ever forget you, know I have loved my children more than anything in the world. I do it via the internet; if I tack those words safely to the ether, I reason, they will always be able to find them, even if I cannot find myself.

My youngest messages back: And so has Gran.

And it is only then that I cry.

6 Responses to “Know my Name”

  1. Jackie Says:

    And that’s when I cried too. So hard. Sending big hugs xx

  2. Joan Says:


  3. Addy Says:

    Oh crikey, that made me cry just reading that. I am so sorry. It must be hard at times to hear this from your mum. I am sure you know it is the nature of this wretched disease but nevertheless it must still be like a knife through your heart. Your mum still loves you, she just doesn’t know it anymore. Sending virtual ((((hugs)))).

  4. haitiruth Says:

    Wow. Tears. I’m so sorry! Ruth,

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