by Allison Symes
I’m not going to the bloody doctors. I couldn’t tell you how often Sarah goes on about it. When will she take the hint? I do know my own mind. I swear she thinks I’m going loopy. She says not but why else would she want me to go to the doctors when there’s nothing wrong with me?
It’s perfectly normal for older people to forget things sometimes. Hell, she’s done so herself. She forgot my birthday last week. I was really hurt by that. I was bloody annoyed when she told me my birthday is next month. I should know my own birthday.
Oh my cup of tea has gone cold. Did I forget to drink it? Did I forget to put the kettle on at all and just poured cold water into my mug? I did do that last Wednesday but I’d had a stressful time of it arguing with Sarah again and well that kind of thing is bound to make you forget odd things, isn’t it? I didn’t tell Sarah I did this. She’d have seen it as proof I do need to go and see Dr. Page.
Sarah keeps telling me I shouldn’t be afraid to go to the doctors. Dr. Page is sympathetic, is bound to have treated patients with memory loss before and there is more awareness now of “mind” issues. Sarah says this covers everything from depression to dementia. Sarah is right on all of this but how it applies to me I couldn’t tell you. I am perfectly healthy. Sarah says I’m in denial. There is something wrong when your own daughter tries to tell you what to do.
And I’m simply not having that. Sarah ought to be pleased. If ever there was proof I do know my own mind, this is it, surely.
I should know this place. I was born near here. The old oaks are still there. The character bungalows and detached houses are still there. I don’t recognise any of the people walking along the street. I used to know everyone here. I would always stop and chat. It brightened up my days especially when I was at home alone with a small child.
I look again. Nothing is coming to mind. I tell myself to relax. Sarah says I have been through a lot. She’s my daughter. That’s what she tells me. She says my name is Mary Davies. I can’t remember right now. I know she’s important somehow. But my mind works like that these days. One moment I have perfect recall, yet in another moment there is nothing there. It is infuriating. But I’ll go to the park, then to the coffee shop and maybe things will start coming back to me. I need to calm down if I’m to have any hope of remembering anything. And I want to remember as much as I can. I just know it’s important I try and I thought coming here might help.
I smile as I get to the park gates and look across at the lake that lies in the middle of the grounds. It is always beautiful here. I like the autumn best when the golden leaves flutter down on top of the water and the sunlight catches them. My mind may be playing tricks on me but I’ve always had an appreciation of nature and I don’t think that will ever leave me. At least I hope it doesn’t. Sarah says the loss of memory might be temporary. It doesn’t have to be dementia. I think she’s trying to cheer herself up. You don’t like to think of someone close to you coming down with that, do you? She’s hoping I’ve got some sort of water infection. That can have funny effects on people apparently. Maybe she’s right. I hope she is. I do know infections can be treated.
Sarah will pick me up later on. We’ve got to see the doctor. I can’t remember why. But Sarah says it’s important. And I’ll go to keep her happy. She is nice to me. I like that. David wasn’t nice. It’s funny I can remember that only too well.
I walk towards the lake. A middle aged brunette comes towards me. She looks concerned.
‘Are you all right, Mum?’
‘Yes, dear. Nice day isn’t it?’ At least she’s friendly. A bit too friendly if you ask me. I don’t know why she’s calling me Mum. That’s Sarah’s privilege. And the new people next door give me funny looks. Sarah says they’re not new people. They’ve lived there for 20 years. I don’t remember seeing them before.
‘It’s just that you’re still wearing your nightie. You’ve never gone out in your nightie before.’
I look down at what I’m wearing. The lady’s right. I’m still in my pink nightdress. Why did I do that? Sarah will be cross when she finds out. And how does this lady know I’ve not done this before? Who does she think she is? A clairvoyant?
I look back at the lady. I don’t know what to do now. Given her expression I don’t think she does either. If anything I think she looks sad. Don’t know why. She hasn’t come out in her nightie for some bizarre reason.
I keep feeling as if something is missing, as if someone has taken something from me. Perhaps this lady can help me find it. I smile vaguely. I don’t know what else to do.
‘Would you like to come with me?’
I give the lady a look. ‘No. I don’t go off with strangers. I’ll wait for my husband. He’ll sort things out.’
‘Mum, you don’t have a husband any more. Dad walked out on us when I was little. He found a younger model. Couldn’t face you, he said or so you told me.’
I stare at the lady. She is a clairvoyant. I don’t know this woman yet everything she says is true. She must be a mind reader.
‘Is there someone else I could call for you?’
That’s better. The lady is being more respectful now. Sarah told me once that carers of dementia patients often “play along” with whatever it is their charges come out with to help keep them calm. Why am I thinking that now? Where did that thought come from? Is this lady doing this to me? How dare she!
‘Sarah. My daughter.’ I give the lady a look. ‘I can’t remember what her number is.’ And I can’t. I never did have much of a head for numbers.
‘Do you remember where she lives?’
‘I think it’s Eastleigh. I know I can’t walk there. Sarah says I’m not supposed to go off with strangers anyway.’
The lady smiles. ‘That’s because I’m sensible, Mum. I am Sarah.’
I look at her. ‘You’re not. I know my own daughter. You could call her so she comes out and takes me home.’
I sit down on the bench just inside the park gates. Maybe if I just sit and think for a while, Sarah’s number will come back to me so the lady can call her for me. Sometimes my mind co-operates. I just need to give it time. And I suppose that’s fair enough. I’m no spring chicken now. Everything ages and tires and slows down.
The lady sits besides me. ‘I see you’ve got your handbag. Would you have your daughter’s number in there?’
I clutch my bag to me. Sarah did warn me about people wanting to make off with my bag. It’s such a shame as this lady looks nice. I suppose the best con artists do.
‘You’re not taking my bag,’ I say but the lady looks sad.
‘I don’t want your bag, love. Why don’t you look inside and see if you can find an address book or something?’
I nod. That does sound like a good idea. Why didn’t I think of that? My common sense seems to be disappearing, something else which seems to be slipping away from me. It feels sometimes as if there’s something inside my brain taking everything away. Sarah says the doctor can help. I can only hope she’s right. But I’ve got to find Sarah. She’s lost. I’ve got to find her.
I rummage in my bag. I hear whispering and look up sharply. There’s a young man standing in front of the lady. Must be about 19, reminds me of Sarah’s son. I guess that would make him my grandson. Why didn’t I remember that?
‘Gran’s having a bad day, Mum,’ the young man says but he stops on seeing me look at him.
‘I’m fine, thank you, young man. Stop talking about me as if I’m not here.’
The lady looks at my bag. ‘Did you find an address book, Mum?’ She turns to the young man.
‘Eddie, I need to “go along” with this and see if I can calm Mum down so she looks up our number. I will then “dial” it, walk off a short distance and then come back to pick Gran up and take her home. She doesn’t know who I am right now. I don’t think she knows who you are either.’
I glare at the lady. I don’t know why she seems to think I’ve suddenly gone deaf. I know who my daughter and grandson are. Course I do.
I shake my head and hand my bag over to the lady. I’m feeling tired suddenly. Why is everything suddenly too much? I want to give up. What has been stolen from me can stay stolen. It is too much trouble to fight to get it back. I’ll tell Sarah so and have done. This lady looks like Sarah. I’ll tell her. It’ll have to do.
The nice young man helped escort me home when Sarah turned up. She’d just been around the corner on another bench it appears. Silly girl. Fancy doing that. And she worries about me.
I’m going to the doctors with Sarah on Monday.
I never go out anywhere in my nightie. It lacks dignity. I can’t have this happen again.
And maybe I’ll still be proved right. Stress can make you forget things. The doctor can treat me for stress.
Sarah hasn’t argued. That makes a nice change. I guess she’s just glad I’ve agreed to go.
Sarah went home an hour ago. She was kind.
I’ve just stopped crying. I started after she left. I still have some pride even if my mind is playing tricks on me. I look at my reflection. I don’t look good and I feel worse.
Oh the doctor was also nice. Said dementia couldn’t be confirmed at this stage. Also said it couldn’t be ruled out. I’ve got to have further tests. My life as I’ve known it has gone. Sarah did try to tell me gently it had already gone. That I’ve got to face the future.
Yes, a future with no bloody memory.
The one thing I do know is I’m not going out in my nightie again. I still can’t believe I did that. I still can’t believe why I failed to recognise my daughter and grandson. Why did I think David would come back for me? He was never reliable, even early on in our marriage.
I suppose if I can’t have my old life back, I could have a new one. What can I do to make it a life I want? If dementia is there, it will get me in the end. It gets anyone with it. But I could fight it. If I’m going to lose, I’ll put that defeat off as long as possible. If I can win anything, I might keep some of my memories. Some is better than nothing.
Sarah says we can link up with the dementia people for more support. It’s a good idea. I’ll need help. If I can’t have the life I planned - more travel and to spend more time with Sarah and Eddie - I will have what I can get.
And dementia, if I’ve got it, can damn well wait before it destroys me. I will not go down without a bloody good fight.
I did tell Sarah that. She said she was proud of me.
It was the only thing to make me smile today. Perhaps something better will make me smile tomorrow.