Mum used to have lots of stories.
We grew up hearing about her childhood in Africa, boarding school in England, training to be a nurse, how she met our Dad, us as small children to name but a few regular topics.
For a while, when the here and now started to slip away, the past was a comforting place and we heard those stories more often.
Sadly, the stories are mostly gone now and although we tried to write them down we left it just a little too late to get the full version, so there are gaps in my own memory now.
However, with a practiced ear we can still sometimes discern the key elements of the old favourites within a new jumbled version:
the policeman who tried to tell her off in the playground before realising her father was his boss’ boss’ boss;
how I told a friend “she means it you know” when the friend continued to bounce on the bed after a warning that it would result in being sent home;
the school friends who took it in turns to distract the novice teacher from the day’s lesson topic;
the nasty house mistress who kept all the nice food and made them eat horrible food;
the pink hat she wore at the wedding where she met Dad (who always swore it was blue);
the boat trip across a river to seek medical attention that nearly ended in disaster when a hippo approached;
the great distances walked between wards as a trainee nurse, and how she had to walk fast and eat faster to have half a chance of getting to the canteen and back;
how the student house she shared didn’t have enough beds for them all so they took it in turns to sleep around shifts and how she would ride the circle line while waiting for her turn in the flat;
how as a child her legs got stuck in her coat sleeves on a flight due to the pressure changes;
the American sailor on the boat back to England who gave her chewing gum and called her “Blondie”, much to her mother’s disgust…
I love it when the snippets crop up and you can help the story along and take her back to those days.
Even writing them here makes me happy as a way of remembering Mum as she was.
But the most popular story these days, and for the past 2 years really, is the Mystery Man who none of us have met, but who has clearly made a huge impression on Mum.
Not a good one unfortunately.
The chap in question is, to quote Mum, “grossly overweight” or “revolting” or both, depending on the day.
He is diabetic but is adamant that the doctor has told him he can eat as many chocolate biscuits as he likes.
What seems to upset Mum the most is that he is rude to those trying to help him and doesn’t realise the stress on his carers and the implications of his illness.
Ever the nurse!
As far as we can tell Mum has a lovely time at the various day care centres she goes to, she is warmly greeted on arrival and almost always comes back chirpy.
Yet whenever you ask her about it or suggest she has friends there, the diabetic man crops up and she gets cross.
He is pretty much the only thing Mum will volunteer into a conversation, and often makes unexpected appearances within the fragments of the old story favourites.
It’s incredible how the brain works and how there is absolutely no logic to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Ali and I used to play around with trying to guess the things that would stay with Mum in the later stages, which bits of the past would come to the forefront.
Maybe things will resurface but for now our predictions are way out.
I would love to meet the Mystery Man and see for myself what he is like, if indeed he exists.
And most of all I would love to know how and why he has lodged so firmly in her consciousness so that I can lodge myself there too.