How can a train station make you cry? Well, I was in tears on the train to and from visiting Mum as we went through our old station. So many memories – setting off for university, nervous and excited about the whole new life opening up; Mum coming to collect me at the station on my weekend visits; Mum no longer able to collect me and the relationship I built up with the taxi company; coming down for weeks at a time to look after her; calling a friend (now dead) from the station while waiting for a train home.
All these memories flash before me; I know this countryside so well, have watched it from the window hundreds of times. The other passengers notice me crying but this is England and no one says anything, thankfully.
On the return leg, the woman next to me has a terrible cough. I try and turn my head every time and she does cover her mouth, but I’m tempted to move or ask her to move. My immune system is pretty frail these days. But then I think how that would play out, the carriage is full, so I’d have to find someone else who wouldn’t mind sitting next to a cougher. So I stay in place and try not to breathe when she coughs. So far so good.
Driving through London feels like the emotional geography of home. The taxi driver has a mother-in-law with dementia and we exchange stories and experiences, laughing and on the verge of tears both.
I’m down for a few days with Mum, visiting her nursing home. She turned 90 today, we are keeping the celebrations low key as she tires very easily and my brother is coming with his family tomorrow.
It’s a specialist dementia home and care is exemplary. I notice that the other people around her all seem to have their own version of the present, just not one that chimes with the rest of us. So one man comes past and asks if I’ve done my Christmas shopping yet. Another lady wants to know where the bus stop is. I’ve learned to join them in their world and just answer as I would if it were a real question. Feelings are a hundred percent, so anxiety, relief, contentment are all ratcheted up.
It’s the Queen’s birthday too of course and Mum is a little miffed that she is a year younger. She forgets it’s her birthday despite the flowers and cards and rediscovers them all over again every ten minutes or so. When a member of staff asks her how many years young she is, Mum snorts as she would always have done at the twee phrasing. ‘I’m not sure.’ I prompt her and she denies being ninety, suggesting eighty something.
There’s a prayer service which I go along to without Mum and by the time I find it, they’re about to start. One of the three people leading it fixes me with the kind of smile I see all the time, usually attached to my stick; it’s a mixture of pity, encouragement and head patting. I sit down and realise it’s not the stick, (most people here have frames or sticks) she thinks I have dementia as well.
Unfortunately it’s taken my marbles with it. Yesterday’s dark clouds have cleared as they always, eventually do, but hard to remember when you’re enveloped in darkness.
Woke up today convinced I was meeting my Monday cultural pal to go to cinema, so booked the tickets. Just time to go to the library first and get some more reading for Easter.
A knock at the door and it’s the cleaner from next door’s flat. The wonderful ninety-six year old died last month and the cleaner is still looking after the flat, but doesn’t like to go into the bedroom where the woman died, on her own. So I go and keep her company and the room is full of light and sunshine, just as my neighbour was. We have a coffee and reminisce about what a great character she was, how she loved flowers. There are still flowers round the flat and the cleaner cuts one marvellous one for me (see below).
Off to the library and meet another local cleaner who has very bad knee trouble. I do too and we have rather bonded over the state of our joints. He’s waiting for an op and in a lot of pain and we discuss the merry-go-round of exercise, pain and rest.
On the way to the library a friend calls to ask me where I am, as I’m supposed to be meeting her to go to a lunchtime concert. It’s Tuesday! And it had completely slipped my mind. Cinema is tomorrow.
I recalibrate what passes for my mind these days….
Wake up to another Monday, the hardest day of the week when your life has changed so significantly. Limbs are leaden, mindset is ‘what’s the point’, the days of the week stretch endlessly ahead and not in a good way.
Normally a cultural outing with a pal helps, but a couple of meetings this afternoon instead.
So blackmail myself out of bed with promise of a decent breakfast, then go through the motions of a normal day – shower and get dressed, take meds, tidy up a bit for meetings. Then out to get paper and do some shopping, get some air and be in the world.
Bump into someone I know on way to supermarket and we go and have a coffee, which helps. She sweetly asks how I am and rather than give her both barrels of misery, I say Mondays are hard, but they get better as the day goes on. Then shopping for dessert I’m making for dinner invitation tomorrow.
Make it to lunch time and under the new regime, force myself to eat a sandwich. No appetite these days but important to keep the nutrition coming. I’ve got a grilled mackerel waiting for me this evening with watercress salad.
Twenty minutes with the crossword and a semblance of normal transmission is restored. It’s life Jim, but not as we knew it.