You can be pulled up short and stopped in your tracks by many things, that 'woah, didn't expect that one' kind of moment. Here's one from me
'Who was the other beatle?'
Okay sounds quite an inoffensive question, but when it comes from your very old and very frail Mum whilst she is sitting in a care home staring out of the window across the river to where we used to live, it is something of a stunner.
Instantly my mind raced, was she thinking of insects or the Beatles group from the sixties. What the hell brought this on? I try a gentle question in return and resist the almost overwhelming urge to shout 'what the hell are you on about'. Instead I say 'What Beatles do you remember Mum?'. She had the names of John, Paul and Ringo to hand so I felt quite safe in adding George to the mix for her.
A few minutes later she asked the same question, I replied in the same way. This time she had missed out Paul. The show went on again and again…..
This was a new and frightening aspect of her 'fading', it was like talking to a child. A child who just wouldn't/couldn't grasp the facts. A stroppy child who didn't like/want anything I had brought or anything that I said. My heart ached for her and what she used to be just a few short months ago. We sat together in her sunny room looking out over the river we know so well, me in mind racing panic, she, only God knows where.
She is thin now, her legs are the width of my wrists. How could they possibly hold her upright? How did this happen so fast?
I wear a look I have been perfecting, my dutiful daughter look, I feel as if I am wearing an itchy jersey, I want to take it off and be me. I can't, I must maintain 'the look' throughout the visit.
It's tea time and I leave, I say 'I love you' she asks me who was the other Beatle.
Outside the sun is shining, am I dazzled by it, is that why my eyes are streaming.
The river is right in front of me, the old footbridge that leads to the other side. I can see our old house over there. Suddenly the lump in my throat overwhelms me. The bridge takes on a Brigadoon quality and I am so very tempted to cross it. Would it take me back to another time when the house was ours and both parents alive and well. No of course it wouldn't, but just for a moment it all seems so possible, so real.
I get back into my car and drive home.