by Tony Domaille
‘I wish you were closer,’ she said.
I put my palm to the Perspex screen between us and watched her raise her own frail, wrinkled, hand to meet mine. Close, but still a world away.
‘Are you eating?’ she asked. ‘You look like you could do with a few decent meals. Do you remember my hot pot?’
I smiled. If anyone could do with feeding up it was her. The care home manager said she lived on hope and custard. The hope that someone would visit and give her a hug, and custard because it required no chewing. They tried to persuade her to eat, but she just nibbled a little, pushed her plate away, and begged for the yellow stuff that kept her going.
‘You should try to eat better,’ I said.
She shrugged. ‘I would if you sat down with me.’
She knew I couldn’t. Even though the pandemic was waning, the closest I could be was the other side of this screen, though I wondered if the kitchen would allow us to have a plate each here. I wasn’t hungry, but I was prepared to match her, fork for fork, with some lasagne or cottage pie, or whatever they served up to the dentally challenged.
I would have suggested it, but she launched into her stories. Way back in time when I did things that made her laugh or cry or proud. I watched her eyes light up as her memories flooded back, one after another. I had groomed the dog with garden shears. I had flooded the bathroom playing submarines. I had won school prizes, been kind, had the finest wedding day she had ever known, and been the best son a mother could ever wish for.
‘You’ve always been a lovely boy,’ she said, putting her palm to the screen again.
I mirrored her hand. ‘You’re lovely yourself.’
And then the care worker was there behind her, tapping at his watch and mouthing that it was time I was leaving.
She looked tearful when I said I had to go. ‘I wish you were closer,’ she said again.
I blew her a kiss in return for the one she blew me and watched as she was led away back to her room.
As I signed myself out at reception the care home manager said to me, ‘Thank you for coming. Mary so looks forward to your visits.’
‘Does anyone else visit at all?’ I asked.
‘Not a soul, so you volunteers are a godsend,’ said the manager. But I suppose she knew what I was thinking because then she said, ‘Dementia isn’t always a curse, it can sometimes be a curse, but it can also be a blessing. Mary thinks you’re her son, doesn’t she?’
About the author
Tony has written a number of award-winning plays, published by Lazy Bee Scripts and Pint Sized Plays, that have been performed across the world. He has also had many stories published in anthologies and magazines. You can follow him here -https://www.facebook.com/tonydomaillewriting/