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Last night I talked to my mum on the phone.

She couldn’t remember my name.

Maybe it was just a bad day.

They always say dementia is harder for the family of the sufferer, and I think it’s true in this case, because I don’t think Mum realises. And she’s cheerful, if confused from time to time. I’ve seen frustrated and angry dementia patients in my line of work – frail little old ladies who’ve shaken their fists at me and spat when I’ve tried to put in an IV line to give them some fluids before or after surgery. Or old men who have sworn at me and told me the nurses are trying to kill them,  or who’ve been so demented they’ve gotten up and walked on their fractured hips. I’m so grateful my mum isn’t like that. Yet.

But I’m still stuck with the pain of missing someone who I used to have long conversations with; who was the sweetest person imaginable, but still had the capacity to be cheeky and occasionally a bit rude; who gave so much of herself to the service of others in her nursing career, caring for her own aging mother, and to her own husband and children; who was my greatest confidante, and the greatest comforter.

There are things in my life I was hoping she would still be lucid for – like being at my wedding, and children. She used to sew beautiful things, and we had a plan that she would make my wedding dress, but it’s been several years since that was a possibility. She loved children, and had hoped for a large family. But marrying late, she had 4 miscarriages before adopting a 6 week old baby with Down Syndrome, and shortly after falling pregnant with me – at the age of 46! I can only imagine how thrilled she would be to have grandchildren, but I don’t think she will survive, in any meaningful way, to meet these as yet hypothetical beings.

My Beautiful Mum, Dunedin June 2010

In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight….
Not people die but worlds die in them.
~Yevgeny Yevtushenko, “People”