I picked mum up from the nursing home on Saturday morning as I did every month. It was what my role as older son was - according to the family, anyway. Before we left, the matron spoke to me and told me that mum’s dementia was so advanced that she was living very much in the past. I said I knew as, for the past few months, she had referred to me as Robert, which was my father’s name. Then again, mum was now 68 and it had been not unexpected. She’d been in the home for five years now and apart from my monthly visits, no one else from the family called to see her. Dad had died fifteen years back and my brother and sister never called apart from at Christmas. She was, I knew, too much trouble for them. Me? Well, I guess I felt a sense of duty to her. After all, she was my mother.
I live about twenty miles away from the home in a small house in a countryside part of England. It’s a lovely, quiet place and - as a bonus - is private in that no one bothers you if you don’t bother them. I’d chosen it after my divorce as being both out of the way as I just wanted to be on my own after that episode. As we drove home, mum kept asking me questions, again calling me by my father’s name. I just responded automatically, as it didn’t make any difference for me to correct her about my own name and the fact I was her son and not her husband. Besides, there was no harm in it and anyway, I didn’t mind. Mum enjoyed the weekends, I think, and what was the harm in pandering to her anyway? She asked where we were going and what we were going to do and I said home, just the two of us for the weekend. She was quiet for a short while and then she asked what day it was.
“Saturday.” I said and thought no more of it. Mum nodded and, not looking at me, said that she supposed I was going to want her to do “afternoon delight” ... I looked at her, mystified. Was this something to do with her dementia? Gently, I asked her what she meant.
“Oh Robert! You know. Upstairs.”
“Upstairs for what?” I said.
She tutted and shook her head, not looking at me as she spoke.