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.