By Sarah Jane
Mum’s gone downhill over the past few months. This is hardly surprising since she’s been living with Alzheimer’s disease for over a decade, but it’s a shock all the same.
I’ve been a bit in denial, thinking it’s just a blip. I’m hoping that she’ll suddenly perk up and get back to her energetic self. I’m hoping that she will no longer be constantly exhausted, physically and mentally. I’m praying that we’ll be able to walk around art galleries, take train trips and rummage in thrift shops again. Instead, we are stuck with tiny outings followed by a cup of tea and a long nap.
Actually, it’s more like a short nap, more confusion, another nap, and then back to the rest home.
Yesterday I scooped Mum up and took her shopping. What that really means is I drove to the shops and persuaded Mum to struggle out of the car for a few brief forays into stores—the kinds of places Mum used to love to explore. After less than five minutes, Mum’s about to keel over. I ask a shopkeeper for a chair where she can rest. It’s simple: if the shop assistant finds one, we stay. I might even buy something. If they don't have a seat for Mum, then we leave.
After three shops, we give up and decide to drive to my place for a sit down and a nice cup of tea. “Is there any other sort?” asks Mum.
As we approach the house, a sad-looking person shuffles, hunchbacked, across the road.
“He looks a bit depressed,” I say brightly. I’m driving slowly now, searching for a parking spot.
“I’m depressed,” Mum replies.
“Are you?” I ask, struggling with the small parking space and a suitable reply. “About what in particular?”
“About the lack of a future,” states Mum.
It seems important for me not to dismiss this. I must stay with it even though I have no idea what to say. I finish parking the car and turn to Mum. “It must be hard, being 88,” I begin.
“I’m not depressed about being old,” Mum interrupts. “It’s just that I’m not good at anything anymore.” She gazes out the window. “I’ve used up my ticket.”
“Used up your ticket? Used up your ticket…” I can’t stop saying it. Images of fair rides and EuroRail passes run through my head. Mum gives me an inquisitive look. “That’s so good.”
We look at each other again. “You’re such good company,” I say. Mum smiles and squeezes my arm. I think about how much she loves to see me every Saturday, how she always notices my hair and my clothes, how she picks up on my mood, how she asks about the children, realizing all the while that she has no idea where they live or what they’re doing. I think about how, in the moment, Mum has lost none of her conversational spark.
We’ve sat on the sofa, drunk tea and eaten tomato sandwiches. Mum is preparing to go home and fussing about what she might have brought with her and whether she still has it. She’s not sure where I’m taking her. She’s tired and can’t summon the rest home to mind. We’ve been out for less than two hours.
“I’ve had such a lovely day,” says Mum, kissing my hair.
“So have I.”