Wisdom Of Mum

The blog of Alexandra Wilde and Her Mum

Wisdom Of Mum

It’s a Happy New Year – and a photo or three from 2018!

It’s a Happy New Year!

Mum got to be at about 10.00 p.m. last night, so she didn’t watch all the fireworks on t.v, which were pretty spectacular featured around the London Eye.

Before I went to bed at 1.30 a.m., I looked in in Mum, and she was half awake, so I said, “Happy
New Year, Ma!” and she replied, “Happy New Year,” and promptly settled back down, to sleep on.

This morning, Mum was up early and washed and dressed, and sitting in the chair, so we had a very normal morning, with Mum eating all her breakfast.

She is back in bed now for a nap until dinner time, which gives me a chance to write a Happy New Year message to all the readers of this blog, and to wish us all, a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2019.

I have also got a couple of pictures uploaded onto the computer which I can attach to this entry; o.k., I should have put them up earlier, but I think everyone knows my IT abilities are sadly lacking – ask me to write a poem, or an article, and I’ll oblige without turning a hair, but trying to get me to understand the mysteries of uploading pictures in such a way that I can attach them to this blog….well, that is another matter entirely.

So, with faith and hope that 2019 will prove to be a good year, here are some photos from 2018 that, to misquote a phrase from Blue Peter, I should have made earlier……

Mum and Wendy – 28 October 2018
Mum’s 99th Birthday
Mum and one of her 99th Birthday cards
Christmas Day 2018
Wendy in her Elf outfit – Christmas Day 2018

Mum Remembers a Dear Friend

Mum Remembers A Dear Friend.

We have a wonderful friend, June, who lives across the road from us; over all the years we have lived  here, she has been a dear friend and neighbour, always ready to visit Mum and spend time with her. 
Even before Mum broke her ankle, and had to stay with us permanently, June would come over and see Mum, and talk to her; if Mum was in a “funny mood” (i.e., grumpy and unpredictable), June would say,”Oh, I’ll come and see her – she’ll be alright!” And, after a short while in June’s company, Mum was indeed “alright,” and in a much happier frame of mind.

At one time, June also presented Mum a beautiful rug, which Mum uses a lot, draping it over her knees to keep her legs warm. 

Just before Christmas, June came over to see us, and we had a great time chatting about this and that, and generally setting the world to rights. When it was time for her to leave, June said she would look in on Mum in her bedroom, and say “Hello.”
We weren’t sure if Mum would remember her, so I went in with June, and said, 
“Mum….”
“Yes?” 
“June’s come to see you – do you remember June? She lives just across the road.”
And Mum’s reply was a brilliant early Christmas present for us all.

Without any hesitation, Mum said, 

“Oh, yes, I remember June.” Mum patted the rug on her knee: “She gave me this lovely shawl.”
We all looked at each other, amazed and delighted that such a good memory is still tucked away somewhere inside Mum’s head. 
I think it is so important never to stop trying to stimulate someone’s memory, and perhaps bring back
something good to the forefront of their mind.  
I know June was equally thrilled that Mum had remembered her so clearly; and the best part about it was that Mum was actually wearing the rug June had given her. 

After nearly a month of not writing an entry in my blog – I’m back!

After nearly a month of not writing an entry in my blog – I’m back!

It’s not that the spirit has not been willing, or the flesh has been weak – more a case of in the run-up to Christmas, the days flew faster than ever; in my childhood memory, the expression “The clock is going on gingerbread wheels,” meant no-one could ever catch up with it, as preparations for the festive season gradually took over. Of course, Mum is our No.1 priority (“No. 1 priority” – is that tautology?!) and she is always cared for and attended to before anything else can happen; but I love Christmas, and I love the meaning of it, which for me means also getting in touch with dear friends and family, contacting people who will be on their own over Christmas, writing letters – e-mail and snail mail – and finding the opportunity to have chats on the phone and catch up on each other’s news.

There’s a gentle pleasure in knowing you’ve let folks know you are thinking of them and wishing them well, and this year, everything got done in good time.

I don’t go mad on grocery shopping at Christmas; unless on the day you’re catering for dozens of friends and relatives, where do people put away all the food filling their overflowing supermarket trollies? Just because it’s a Christmas dinner, no-one in our family can eat two or three times as much as they usually do, so my extra shopping consisted of a turkey (yup, I’m traditional when it comes to turkey), and Yorkshire puddings; an extra pack of carrots and peas, a stem of brussels sprouts (I’m not keen, but the rest of the family is!), and the usual turnip, swede and cauliflower vegetables, along with roast potatoes.  Oh, yes, and I got a chocolate Yule Log…. I am very partial to all things chocolatey, as anyone who knows me will confirm.

My main concern is getting everything cooked and ready to serve at the same time; this year, on Tuesday, it all went smoothly.

Mum did extremely well; she joined us at the dining table, and we all helped to make sure she ate properly. It was such a treat for me to have all my loved ones together at the same time, and also for Mum to take part in the festivities. Afterwards, we repaired to the lounge to open our lovely gifts, and  took a couple of photos so we can remind Mum later on of all that we did on Christmas Day.

We sang carols around the piano until the carers came at 8.30 p.m. (earlier than usual this evening, because they also needed to get all their calls finished, and have some time with their own families); after such an eventful day, Mum was very ready for bed!

I Perform Poetry Again

I Perform Poetry Again

Some months ago, at a poetry session held at a local Library, it was mentioned that on 24 November, there would be a performance of George Butterworth’s Rhapsody on a Shropshire Lad, based on A E Houseman’s poetry, and that there was a request circulating for someone to recite some of the poems.

I put my hand up to say I was very interested! and Paul Kelly, Chairman of the Havering Concert Orchestra, got in touch with me, to explain what they were planning to do. The concert would be the last event in the Havering Literary Festival, running from 5 – 24 November; the Concert would mark the centenary of the end of World War One.

George Butterworth was killed in 1916, shot by a sniper on the Somme, which made his music a poignant choice to commemorate the end of the war; it was decided I would recite 5 poems before the orchestra performed the Rhapsody.

The Concert Orchestra has an interesting history; not every town or borough has its own orchestra, but the Havering Concert Orchestra has been known as such for over 50 years, and has existed since at least the 1930s; it draws audiences from a wide area in Essex and beyond.

So! Having committed myself to the task, next came the serious business of memorising A E Houseman’s work. With a few exceptions, most of the poems in the cycle are very short; I could have a copy of them as an aide memoire, but I wanted to be so familiar with them, and so comfortable with how I wanted to perform them, I thought committing them to memory was very important. There’s an old theatre expression: “Practice is what you do whilst you’re learning your lines; rehearsal is what follows when you have learnt them off by heart!”

There was a hiccup at the start of the day, when Mum did not get up with the morning call; she did not get up at the lunch call either, but slept right through all the carers’ ministrations. The carers knew our concerns, so they brought the tea call forward for us, from 4.30 to 2.30 p.m., by which time Mum was at last ready to get up; it meant there was now time to get her dinner ready, and for Mum to eat it, before I had to leave for the venue.

Because I also wanted members of my family to be in the audience – even if only for the first half! – there was the additional necessity of organising a sitter to be with Mum whilst I was at the show; we had to find someone really suitable to take over for a couple of hours.

Happily everything fell into place, and I had the double delight of performing before a very receptive audience, and seeing my loved ones there as well.

I get such a buzz from doing my best to interpret the meaning and emotion from any writer’s work, and trying to convey to the audience, the pictures I can see in my head, and it was such a thrill for me to be able to take part.

As a performance poet, I was honoured and delighted to perform the selected poems to complement the opening part of the programme, and afterwards I was very touched to be presented with a beautiful bouquet of red roses – such a thoughtful gesture.

This is the photo that was published in the programme:

(Just to prove I do scrub up well!)

Mum’s Birthday Week

Mum’s Birthday Week

The following day, (her actual birthday, Sunday, 28 October), Mum slept right through the carers’ early call; even whilst they were washing her, and putting nice clean clothes on Mum, she didn’t make a peep. She slept through breakfast time; she slept through the lunch call and dinner time. She was perfectly peaceful – just catching up on all the excitement of the previous 48 hours.

By 4.30, Mum was awake; she got up and we went straight to preparing dinner for her. Wendy arrived in the early evening, and Mum was ready for some more birthday treats. I had already decorated another birthday cake, with candles ready to be lit, and we brought it in, the candles all aflame, singing Happy Birthday – Wendy played piano, Mum cut the cake and we all tucked in to a slice.

After all the excitement of the previous day, we could tell Mum was still tired, so it wasn’t a surprise that after she had her tea, and some family photos had been taken, she was ready for bed again; at least it was a start to get Mum back into something of her normal routine and timing. Other happy events associated with her birthday, like opening her presents and cards, stretched over another couple of days, which meant that for nearly a week, she continued to enjoy things to do with her birthday!

And looking at the photos taken at the Ritz, and the good memories we have stored away in the memory bank, it makes all the effort made by everyone, very worthwhile.

And Now, The Backstory To An Eventful Day

And Now, The Backstory To An Eventful Day

There is always a lot to do before we can set off in the wheelchair-accessible taxi and be driven to the Ritz; I am always aware that things can go wrong, right up to the last minute, but with faith and hope in our hearts, we were up bright and early in the morning – and so was Mum.

The previous day – Friday – had seen Mum extremely bright-eyed and bushy tailed; after being awake all day, and not sleeping when she went back to bed that afternoon for a nap, she did not sleep on Friday night, either. I went in to see her at midnight, 1.00 a.m., 1.30 a.m., 2.00 a.m. – and Mum was still wide awake and chatty – and at one point, told me she was ready to get up. I felt she was a little bit like a child waiting for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve: you know Father Christmas won’t come if you are still awake, but you just can’t get off to sleep.

With Mum still awake at 3.00 a.m. on the Saturday morning, I was absolutely tired out; with a final instruction to Mum, “Close your eyes now, and try and get some sleep!” – to which she replied, “I have got my eyes closed, but sleep isn’t coming!” – I went off to bed, and hoped Mum would get a few hours’ sleep herself.

But she didn’t. When the carers arrived to wash her and dress her in nice clean clothes, Mum was still awake – on overdrive, but somewhere, the tiredness must have been making itself felt, because she was less able to co-operate and follow directions, which is always a sign that she needs to rest.

We followed the routine as best we could; Mum brushed her teeth and then I made breakfast – cornflakes and tea, and I put out the four pills she takes each day. She had a few mouthfuls of cereal and her tablets, followed by the tea, so at least her fluid levels were topped up; but she was too tired to have many more cornflakes, so we left them.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon passed by in a bit of a blur. Apart from making sure Mum was o.k., I also needed to get ready; an old RN joke is that for ladies to get their make up on and hair styled for a big “do,” it requires as much time as a six months’ dockyard job for a full overhaul on a ship! But I can definitely get it all done much more quickly than that.

The taxi was ordered for 3.30; as arranged, the carers were back at 2.30, to take Mum to the loo and help me to get her dressed and into the wheelchair.

By this time, Mum had been awake for about 30 hours, and it showed. She was reasonably co-operative, but it was almost as though she was on automatic pilot; although she wasn’t asleep, things were not getting through to her.

Just in time, Mum was settled in the wheelchair; I told her our lovely driver, Eddie, would be along very soon to take us to The Ritz, but I wasn’t sure she had understood what I was going on about. I just hoped that once we were in the taxi, and bowling along, she would perk up and wake up and enjoy the afternoon.

And indeed she did. Perhaps being in the fresh air for a few minutes as she was wheeled from the house to the taxi helped, and then we were off, bowling down the road. As we neared the Embankment, Eddie noticed there was quite a build-up of traffic, so he turned off to make a detour and avoid the worst of it; Mum noticed we weren’t going on our usual route, so I took that as a good sign.

We arrived at The Ritz just before 5.00 p.m; the Concierge opened the gates to the car park, and we drove in, up to the wheelchair accessible entrance to the Hotel. A few minutes later, we were all settled in the lounge, with spare time to relax and take a few photographs.

We really think it must be time,
Now you’re celebrating ninety-nine
To book a table at The Ritz –
The only venue that really fits
For such a special birthday treat
The Palm Court is the place we’ll meet
And eat elegant sandwiches, salmon and ham,
And beautiful cakes, and scones and jam.

It took some time; there was much to plan
To ensure the day just flowed
Everyone played their part to help
Get us safely on the road.
Now happy memories we’ll recall
A memorable day enjoyed by all.

And so, we made it! and even if it was only a couple of hours in elegant surroundings, I also felt I’d had a longer time away from home, than had actually passed.  Our lovely driver arrived at 7.30 to drive us home, and helped us get Mum into her bedroom; I made Mum another cup of tea and a slice of coconut cake. By then she was really tired, and when the ladies arrived to get her into bed, she was ready for it.

Mum’s 99th Birthday Celebrations

Mum’s 99th Birthday Celebrations

Well, we made it!

We had wonderful day on Saturday, 27 October, when we celebrated Mum’s birthday with Tea at the Ritz. As I’ve written before, whatever else Mum remembers or forgets, she always remembers our visits to The Ritz; the Palm Court Manager and his staff remember us, and everyone makes such a fuss of her. Mum looks forward to the day, enjoys it whilst we are there, and talks about it for weeks afterwards.

She loves the elegance of the Palm Court, and variety of sandwiches (with one platter of cucumber sandwiches made to order just for Mum and me, very simple plain white bread and butter with no other dressing – and, of course, no crusts!) followed by scones, cream and jam, cakes, and a great selection teas on the menu from which to choose.

I think the whole ambience of The Ritz captures Mum’s imagination, taking us all back to an age when things were done with style and panache. This visit was no exception, and afterwards Mum was presented with a copy of the beautiful centenary edition book about the Ritz Hotel, which is a lovely memento of the occasion.

It is never easy organising an event like this for someone like Mum who has dementia is disabled, but everyone played their part to make sure it all went smoothly and to time, and we had a very helpful driver of the wheelchair-accessible taxi who took us to and from the hotel.

From the happiness on Mum’s face in the photographs, I think it shows all the effort was worthwhile, and goes to prove that, with everyone doing their bit, and co-operating with each other, nothing is impossible.

On this occasion, we were joined by our good friend Owen Hayward from the Epping Ongar Railway – and he is the young man who helped me to set up this blog, for which I am so grateful. Owen celebrated his 25th birthday two days after Mum’s special day, and we were all so happy he could be with us and share a joyful experience.

I think Mum is now dreaming of the next time we can all go for Tea at the Ritz; with faith and hope, we shall have to see if we can arrange it.

Mum and Alex at The Ritz

We Let The Train Take The Strain….

We Let The Train Take The Strain….

Uncle John is a wonderful traveller; uncomplaining, relaxed, making the best of everything, and our trip by rail was really pleasant. I am definitely not as keen a motorist as Wendy, and I will always prefer to let the train take the strain, if that is in an option.

The only trouble with not having a car, though, is that it did restrict our sight-seeing. At 87, Uncle John was marvellous at walking, and kept up well, but I have to admit it would have been easier, if I had taken the car. We used taxis on a few occasions, which speeded up our visits to places of interest; the drivers were very chatty and interested when they learned Uncle John had been away from Liverpool for so many years. We had a problem only once, with a driver taking us to a restaurant for dinner. He had such a strong accent, and used so many dialect words – pure Scouse – meant we could barely understand what he was saying.

Uncle John kept looking at me, and I kept looking at him.

“What did he say?” whispered Uncle John.

“I don’t know!” I mouthed back.

We understood probably about one word in every half a dozen, and just hoped we were saying “yes” and “no” in the right places! It was a relief when we arrived at the restaurant we’d picked for dinner.

We’d arranged another date with the reporter from the Liverpool Echo, and at last we all met up at lunch time, on a beautiful day. A photographer was on hand to record the occasion; whilst Uncle John chatted to Bill Leece, he was photographed in the gardens of St Nicholas Church with the Liver building in the background. Afterwards, we all had lunch together; it was such an enjoyable interlude, and so good for Uncle John to be able to talk about his old home city.

Uncle John in St Nicholas Church gardens,
with the Liver Building in the background

Reminiscing about his childhood and youth, Uncle John said, “I was born in Tuebrook and then we moved to Mossley Hill. Another family home was in Purley Grove, off Brodie Avenue; we went to see it, and the road seems so narrow, after all these years!”

Uncle John also wondered why the city had got rid of its trams? A few years ago, Croydon in Surrey installed a tram system and whilst there was great upheaval at the time, it has proved to be a great success. Uncle John said in Australia, Melbourne had refused to get rid of their trams, which was a wise decision; Brisbane, however, opted to replace trams with buses, which in his opinion were not as good.

Uncle John also remembered that his father had once worked as a window dresser at Lewis’s, a chain of British department stores founded by David Lewis in 1856; Bill said it was such a shame we had not been able to visit Liverpool a little earlier, because the store had only recently closed, and it would have been so good to have had the chance to go inside and look round.

From this commemorative plaque…..

After lunch, we went back to Lewis’s and took photos; it was so sad to see how dilapidated the once-proud store had become.

We saw Jacob Epstein’s statue standing proud (in more ways than one!) above the building’s main entrance; officially named “Resurgent,” it was unveiled to celebrate Lewis’s centenary. It is known to the locals as “Dicky Lewis.”

Apart from all the excitement of visiting Liverpool, during Uncle John’s stay we also had more visits into London; we went to Greenwich, and photographed Uncle John with “one foot in the east and one foot in the west:”

We went for a flight on the London Eye:

And we drove to Portsmouth for the day, went on board HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, and saw The Mary Rose:

Uncle John on board Nelson’s flagship

A glorious day in Portsmouth – note my parasol!
Proving to Uncle John that England is not as cold as he may remember!

Although it was lovely to go out and about with Uncle John, and he was very happy with all the activities we did, I think possibly the best part of his holiday was being able to just sit and be with us; read the paper and do the crossword and the number puzzle pages; and have the cats love him, and wait for him to pick up the brush for a grooming session.

He introduced the cats to the lint roller – gently passing the sticky sheets over their fur, the roller picked up all the loose hair and fluff. Blackie especially could never get enough of this treatment:he could hear the covering wrapper being peeled off, from a hundred paces, and weaved around Uncle John’s feet until it was ready for use. “Only 10 sheets used so far? Keep going!” he seemed to say.

Uncle John never failed to remark on how good my cooking was; whilst he was with us, again he “filled out,” and looked really well. When he first arrived, he looked quite small and tired, but after a few days with us – and on my good food – he somehow blossomed, and looked years younger.

He and Mum got on reasonably well, too – Uncle John understood more clearly the problems we had with her moods, and did not provoke her, or disagree with her.  That still didn’t stop Mum, right at the end of Uncle John’s stay, from picking a quarrel with him! He didn’t rise to it; he kept calm, and tried to change the subject, but in her state of mind, she was not to be diverted.

She stormed out of the dining room, declaring she “…would never speak to him, ever again!” and slammed the door behind her.

As we were getting ready to drive Uncle John back to Heathrow, Mum would not come out to say Goodbye to him, which made us very sad. We tried very hard to persuade her to change her mind, but she was adamant; she would not see him off.

Uncle John was philosophical. “She can’t help it,” he said. We were left hoping there would be another occasion when Uncle John would be back with us in England again, and Mum would be in a different frame of mind.

Happily, there was; of which more later.

Uncle John Pays Us Another Visit

Uncle John Pays Us Another Visit

I love keeping “proper” photograph albums – those peculiar old-fashioned books with beautiful creamy heavy quality paper, with glassine interleaves – and I also have special books for any interviews and stories about our family that have been published in various newspapers.

I was looking through some press cuttings albums this week; it was so good to remember when Uncle John came over to England and stay with us during the summer, and the great times we had.

His first visit, in 2009, was such a treat; fearing he might outstay his welcome, he only stayed for a month, but he soon realised it was really too short a time to make a long flight worthwhile. He also knew how very welcome he was and, apart from Mum having a few “funny turns,” we all got on very well, so it was great news when he decided to pay us another visit in 2010.

This time, he came for about six weeks – still not long enough! but heading in the right direction.

The pattern for this visit followed along the same lines as his earlier stay with us, with shopping, jaunts into London for meals at Garfunkels, and another Tea at the Ritz. We also saw a couple of shows; Uncle John had never seen The Mousetrap – neither had we! – and was keen to go, so I got tickets, and we all had an entertaining evening, becoming part of an Agatha Christie conspiracy: “Don’t ever tell anyone the whodunit!”

Al, Mum and me, Wendy and Uncle John
Enjoying another Tea at the Ritz
Uncle John relaxing at home with us

Wendy and I thought Uncle John would also like a trip back to Liverpool, and he jumped at the chance to revisit all the places from his childhood – the street where he was born, and the area he grew up in. I also got in touch with the Liverpool Echo; the editorial staff were keen to meet him, and  interview him about his childhood, and hear his views on how the city had changed over the years.

In the event, Uncle John had not one, but two trips up north!

To start with, it was arranged that Wendy would drive Uncle John to Liverpool; as we all know, Wendy loves driving, and needs no second bidding to embark on a car journey; I am not so keen! I got in touch with William Leece from The Liverpool Echo, to make a date and time for them all to meet up after lunch.

On the day, Wendy and Uncle John set off at a very early hour, but it was one of those days when everything conspired against them for an easy run. There were road works, diversions, heavy traffic and, whatever decision Wendy took to try to find a way around each problem, it merely led to another delay; in the end, they did not arrive in Liverpool until very late that afternoon. Throughout the journey, they had kept in touch with William Leece, but when it became clear they would arrive too late for them to meet, everyone had to admit defeat and accept it wouldn’t be possible for Uncle John to be interviewed – at least, not on this visit.

Their stay was still very enjoyable and a real nostalgia trip for Uncle John.  Wendy took him to all the places he knew – 76, Breck Road, where Mum was born on 28 October 1919, and 11 Acheson Road, where he was born exactly three and a half years later, on 28 April 1923. He remembered all the areas from his childhood, Tuebrook, Allerton and Woollton. Uncle John’s Grandfather and stepmother lived at 67 Purley Grove, and the house still carries a plaque with the name “Ulverston” on it  – the town where my great-grandfather was born.

Uncle John was born at No 11, Acheson Road
“Ulverston,” the house in Purley Grove where my great-grandfather and his wife lived 
The trip also brought back some very sad memories for Uncle John. His brother Austin died in February, 1938, in London. He was only 20, and when his body was brought back to Liverpool, my grandfather was distraught. Their house was called “Sunnyside,” and my grandfather immediately painted over the name; it was no longer appropriate for them to live in a house with that name.  At the funeral, Austin’s girlfriend paid tribute to a lovely young man, “The most generous boy I ever met.”  Uncle John and Wendy visited Kirkdale Cemetery and found the family grave, where his mother – my Grandma – is buried with her eldest son, Austin, and her husband, my grandfather, John Woods.

My grandfather died in 1943 – in an accident – and my grandma often wondered, had he known he would live for only another 5 years, if it would have helped him in his grief. As it was, she had to contend with the loss of her son and husband, and the resulting hardship of having very little money to live on.

Wendy and Uncle John went down to the docks, which had changed out of all recognition since Uncle John was last in Liverpool, but the Liver Building was still there, and the birds still keep watch over the city. Uncle John was very impressed by Wendy’s driving, taking him to all the places of interest, and they enjoyed exploring his old haunts.

It was an all too brief visit, and whilst they were away, I kept in touch with William Leece, the reporter from the Liverpool Echo and he was still very keen to meet Uncle John. The minute Uncle John and Wendy got home, I asked him, “Would you like a second trip up north – with me, by train?!”

“Oh, yes, I would!” Uncle John’s answer was firm.

Wendy was not entirely surprised I was going to book train tickets, because she knows I am never keen to volunteer for a long drive, but to this day, she still thinks I should have given it a go!

Uncle John was back home with us for just 48 hours, and then we were ready to set off up north again: this time from Euston to Liverpool Lime Street Station.

Mum Proves She Can Still Remember Things

Mum Proves She Can Still Remember Things

Mum can go off on a tangent. Sometimes she talks about people and occasions and, because we usually know the background to what and to whom she is referring, we can work out where she is in her mind.

I know carers are trained to agree with what clients say,  even if it is incorrect, but I have a different perspective, especially relating to someone like Mum. Because we know her so well, my belief is that she should be guided gently back to what is true.

Sometimes, Mum says, “Where’s my mother?” and I do not see the point of saying, “Oh, she’s out shopping.” Some long time ago, I heard a carer saying this to Mum; Mum got a bit agitated, and said, “No, she isn’t – she can’t be…..!” so it was obvious that reply was not going to satisfy her. I remember stepping in and explaining that Grandma had died in 1985, and that she was buried in Liverpool. Mum asked a few more questions about what had happened to her mother, and when I told her how Grandma had had a fall and broken her hip, Mum said, “Oh, and is that what killed her?”

“Yes,” I said, “that contributed to it.”

That satisfied Mum, and was the end of the matter, but it proved to me that, somewhere in Mum’s head, are true memories of things that happened in the past, and it is better to help her remember accurately, rather than just fobbing her off with banal, untrue assurances.

Yesterday evening was a case in point. Mum was really “on the ball,” and talking animatedly about her family, and when they lived in Liverpool.

“Yes,” she said, “it was very sad. My elder brother – his name was Austin – he got pneumonia. He was only twenty when he died.”

The carers made very sympathetic responses, and I looked in and added, “Mum is absolutely spot on. That is exactly what happened!”

Mum then carried on talking about her parents, and how her father had died, five years later, and was buried in Liverpool, with his son.

After that, she went on to happier themes, and chatted merrily away about her younger brother, John – and was very much in elder sister mode.

“John is 3 years younger than I am, ” said Mum, “and he’s 95 now. He lives in Brisbane, and he’s looking for a wife!”

(And so he is – or at least, since he was widowed 15 years ago, he would love to find a nice lady companion, with whom he can go out for lunch, and enjoy sensible conversation once or twice a week!)

“How old are you?” asked one of the carers.

“I’m 98!” said Mum.

I think that exchange may prove my point that, at least in Mum’s case, clear memories can come to the fore, and if on some days she is confused, honesty is the best policy.

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