Mum and our cousin met me unexpectedly at the train station, so there were hugs all round, then straight home for a cuppa. I can tell she’s very happy to see me of course, but Mum also asks several times where we’re going, as though she hasn’t just heard the answer a minute ago.
Which is the world she lives in now. Dementia often takes away short-term memory first, and that was one of the initial symptoms we began to notice a few years ago.
‘Shall we have a treat with our tea? How about a crumpet?’
Nostalgia coats my taste buds like raspberry jam and warm runny butter. I’m drawn backwards through the years, remembering blustery walks on the beach with various dogs, coming home to food treats like hot crumpets.
Crackers with sharp vintage cheddar. Fruit & nut chocolate. Crispy fish and chips every Friday. Rhubarb and apple crumble with clotted cream… these are a few of my favourite things.
But if I want them, I’ll have to buy them and/or make them. Because Mum’s not cooking or really shopping any more; she has 3 carers a day to help her with those tasks. Or rather, to do them for her, because it’s quicker and easier.
‘Going home to Mum’s’ no longer means what it did. Sure, I can re-visit old haunts, and search for schoolyard friends in the grey-haired people we pass on the narrow streets, but I’m certainly the elder now in our dynamic. She still calls me by my shortened childhood name (which I’ve always disliked, but it’s time to let that go huh G?), and made a fuss about tucking me in to my makeshift bed the first night.
But that’s about it.
And you know what? I accept that. I honour where she’s at, and where I need to move within myself to meet her. I spent YEARS rebelling, avoiding, resisting, criticizing, ignoring, and blaming; I admit it.
What a terrible challenge I was to Mum, ceaselessly. Ask anyone in our family, and they’ll confirm we had a difficult relationship; I was determinedly the ‘black sheep daughter’. Quite frankly, Australia was only just far enough away for me.
Yet now there’s a beautiful symmetry and peace in just quietly pottering round with Mum, letting her decide which way she wants to walk home, and offering regular cups of tea.
Seagulls squawk as I type this, and my early morning walk led up high-hedged lanes where I used to keep my first fat pony. I’m surrounded by memories like layers of silk at the edge of my vision; if I look too closely, they waft away.
Mum is similar; there’s a soft slipperiness to her now that perhaps offers her some relief from the fretting circles her anxious mind carved for so long? What a blessing to let go of memories that caused such distress.
And I reckon that applies to both of us.
In gratitude for learning how to let go when I have to, G xO