A couple of years after Mum moved to the rest home, she and I were heading slowly through the gate and along the footpath to my car. It was a beautiful spring day.
A pleasant-looking man was walking his little girl up the street. The child would have been five, maybe six. My mother smiled at her, as she does these days to all small children.
“What’s that?” the little girl asked, pointing to the rest home.
Her father replied so promptly and so deliberately, it was like he’d been waiting for that very moment.
“It’s the place where they put their old people. When they don't want them anymore.” Then he caught my eye and held it, just to make sure.
What could I say?
That I can’t provide the 24/7 supervision required by someone whose short term memory is pretty well shot? Not without giving up work.
That neither Mum nor I have the temperament to last more than a couple of weeks living on top of each other with my partner and two kids?
That my mother has always said that she never wants to live with her children? Her own childhood experience in a three-generation household convinced her of that.
So why has this come back to me, three years on?
Maybe it’s the season.
Maybe it’s the fact that this week I’m moving Mum again. Back to the rest home we took her to when she first lost her independence.
This latest move is the result of a failed experiment. Six months ago I moved Mum to a beautiful, spacious, purpose-built home on the other side of town. It has its own immaculate ensuite (private bathroom), a luxurious adjustable bed and a room that is more than a tiny box.
But it didn't work.
Mum missed her friend Clarice and the small group of staff at the old place.
She missed walking ‘round the suburb she had known since before she lost her memory.
Most of all, she missed being close to family.
She felt like she’d been sent away; Banished to another city, even though it was just the other side of town.
So I’m moving her back. I’ve talked it through with her and I’ve written it down. I’ve spent the last three weeks explaining what’s going to happen.
Mum’s taken down her pictures and she’s got her suitcase out. She has no idea where she’s going.
It’s like playing God.