A strange morning

As we begin our walk, my demented mother, who uses complex language and has a good sense of humour (both high mental functions), says to me: “We must be careful what construction we put on issues in case we have trouble extricating ourselves.” I can’t remember what precipitated the comment, but it was nothing special.

After our walk we go to a cafe, where I read to her. I’m reading her my brother’s autobiography, and we are coming towards the end. I start reading and realise that I’m reading my brother’s account of my father’s death. Mostly it was a good death, but he told my brother once, at five in the morning, “I’m in despair.” Should I be reading this to my demented mother? I ask her. She says it’s fine, and I know that it is in that even if it isn’t she’ll have forgotten it in seconds. Does she, indeed, make any sense of what I’m reading? Probably she doesn’t: there can be no development in the story because she cannot remember the lines I read a minute ago. The reading is simply companionship.

Once I have finished reading I take out an old photo album of hers. I’ve not looked at it myself. It’s an album from long ago. My father, her parents, various uncles and friends are all there, but most of them are dead. Things have gone badly for even some of the younger ones: this one’s a heroin addict, this one’s had a stroke, this one’s deaf. Again my mother is not bothered: she’s lost track of who is dead and who alive. Everybody’s alive and everybody’s dead.

I cycle home wondering how long it will be before I’m dead or demented.



I cycle home wondering how long it will be before I’m dead or demented.


One thought on “A strange morning

  1. How long will it be before you (and I) will be dead or demented? An almost irrelevant question, compared to which will come first, death or dementia. Both are inevitable, if one lives long enough. And the time is never long. To the lucky one, I think death first would be best. But I am already showing many signs of dementia, and am still in no rush to kick the bucket. And, from what you wrote, your mother is not suffering unduly. So it is more complex than I think.


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