Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Shock of the Old

It must be strange when you get old and forgetful and people tell you things about yourself that amaze you.

My mother understands everything, just about. Not the Internet perhaps, or how to work a mobile phonel - - but she can watch and follow a play, or a film, and she particularly loves watching football or other sports that go from moment to moment.

She doesn't remember very much, though - certainly not much of recent events, or politician's names, or what year it is - - or any of those things they ask you in those tests that doctors get you to do and then they make a lot of notes.

She still talks so intelligently that it's a bit of a shock to doctors or nurses when they find out that she doesn't know what day it is, or what year it is, and can't remember the words "apple, bicycle, sandwich" three minutes later. She finds all this very upsetting. So, having proved that she does have dementia, manifesting itself as forgetfulness, caused partly by old age and mostly by the stroke she had nearly twenty years ago, I don't want her to have any more tests to prove it to her.

However, sometimes I manage to shock her.

"You need to renew your passport," I said, "if you're going to go and visit Michael in Amsterdam."

Michael is my brother. He sometimes leaves comments on my blog as Michael Communistson. He and his wife Deb and family live in Amsterdam and my mother generally visits them a couple of times a year.

"Oh, yes," said Mum, "it'll need doing now I'm seventy - - something - - er, seventy what?"

"Eighty-something, Mum," I said.

"WHAT?" she said. "I can't be."

"You are, Mum. Eighty-seven."

"Eighty WHAT?"

"SEVEN. You're eighty-seven. In fact next month you'll be eighty-eight."

"No!" she said in amazement. "I can't be. Did you see all the lifting and carrying I did in the garden today? I couldn't do that if I was eighty-seven."

I did see all the lifting and carrying she did today, in the sunshine. Hours and hours of it, with a very nice gentleman friend of hers. Wheelbarrows. Spades. Trowels. Compost.

"No, Mum, you're right. Most eighty-seven-year olds couldn't do that. You're a phenomenon."

She did a little dance and waved her arms about. "But I feel so WELL. I can't be eighty-seven."

Recently she's been spending a lot of time in the evenings with her friend at pub quizzes, or watching football on the big screen in the pub. She's loving it. I can quite see why she can't take this huge number of years on board. I remember the Communist, on his eightieth birthday, looking bewildered.

"How did I get so old, Daphne?" I remember him saying.

"It's great that you feel so well." I said to Mum. I was thinking that there's not a great precedent for how eighty-seven-year olds usually are, as sadly most of them are dead.

I went across the garden from her house back to our house.

"Eighty WHAT?" she called after me, cheerfully.

"SEVEN!" I called back.

Shaking her head in disbelief, she closed the door. Fortunately, by now she'll have forgotten and will be thinking she's in her early seventies, if she thinks about it at all.

There'll be another day's gardening tomorrow. I love my Mum.


Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

I envy the fact that you have your mum so close by and hope that you don't arrive at a time when you feel she has to go into an old folks' home. But you know, she may be on to something - if we genuinely believe we're seventy or twenty one or forty perhaps we take on the characteristics of that particular age.

3:04 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I feel 18 inside but look 71 on the outside. Sometimes I don't even recognize that face in the mirror.

9:38 pm  

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