There is a terrible dichotomy of old age in that everything you do is at less than half the pace of when you were young except your deterioration into dementia which travels at the speed of sound!
‘Mum we have an appointment at memory clinic tomorrow’ I chirpily say to my mother at 6 in the evening. We spend the rest of the evening watching our respective televisions. At about 8 I hear banging upstairs in my mother’s bedroom, and when I return to the kitchen my mother is dressed to go out, I gently ask her why and she looks disappointed up at me knowing she had got her timing wrong, once again I tell her that we have to go to sleep first then we will be going to the clinic.
The bus is at 9am and we are due to have breakfast at about 7.30 or 8. I woke up early (as usual) and walk out to the kitchen, my mother is dressed sitting with the television on (very loudly) her head is resting on the table and is fast asleep, I have no idea how long she has been there. I make breakfast and wake her from her slumber with a lovely warm bowl of porridge. Porridge eaten, coffee drank I vaguely know the timing to get to the bus
Leaving at 8.30 we start to walk, it’s slow excruciatingly slow; mum has a white stick and a small trolley. This speed is about half, no a quarter of my normal walking pace, patience Mark we will get there on time.
On the bus we chat casually about the appointment, I have no idea what it entails and so have little ability to assuage her fears. A long walk up to the hospital and into the Memory Clinic. We are met by the Doctor and shown into her office.
There is a short preamble of pleasantries then into the evaluation proper. It is gently and non aggressive although I feel the Doctor could talk just a little slower and enunciate slightly more clearly (in fact afterwards mum did say she did not understand some of what was said) The questions were answered by mum and myself. Mum will nearly always say ‘yes all seem ok’ I do have to remind her of some things she has done or not done. Forgetting some words, forgetting names, saying ‘blob’ as a substitute for some words. The doctor does a small verbal questionnaire: ‘What day is it?’ Mavis doesn’t know, I don’t know. What date is it? Mavis doesn’t know, I don’t know. ‘What town are we in?’ Mavis knew, phew, I knew the answer to that as well. ‘What county are we in?’ Mavis doesn’t know, but I do. I’m one up now my competitive side is kicking in, oops that not the purpose of this. Mavis was asked to remember 3 words and then asked to recall them later; she couldn’t remember any I only got 2. She was asked to spell something and couldn’t, but this could be slightly forgiven as she has been clinically blind for 10 years or so and has not read or written so recalling spelling has not been on her list of things to do or know. During the talk Mum is obviously conscious of being assessed, she looks slightly nervous and is wringing her hands together, I touch her arm and smile for reassurance. Although I satire this questionnaire, without a doubt mum’s memory is deteriorating. We are to get a tablet that will hopefully slow the deterioration.
We leave hospital, once again at our snail’s pace, We cross the road at a traffic light and start to walk towards town, I realise we have crossed the road when we should not have, I look to try to recross, a simple job for you or me but impossibly for an 84 year old we troop on towards town on the wrong side of the road. There are no buses into town, so have to walk, about a mile, mum does well to keep going, her back is bent like a hunchback causing her pain at every step, she has degeneration of the spine on one side. Relaxing cup of coffee.
Onto the next bus into Oxford to buy some trousers. Size 12 or 14, god knows? I’m not used to this job or putting me into more uncomfortableness buying knickers.
You would have thought that an 84 year old woman bent double, nearly ninety degrees at the waist, and a little bit sideways, white stick in hand and pulling a small trolley behind her would have afforded some courtesy, but it seems not, people standing in the way, pushing barging, heads down buried into texts or phone calls. LOOK UP YOU FUCKERS, CAN’T YOU SEE THIS IS AN OLD WOMEN!
I stood observing at the bus stop and incredulously watched a young woman barge past an older woman then proceeded to put her bags down straight in front of the old woman then proceeded to text someone, the old woman halted her step watched then circumnavigated the young woman. Why I didn’t say something I can only lament a missed opportunity to lambast her.
The return journey was uneventful but I look at my watch and it’s nearly 3. A quick cup of tea and out into the garden, I’m deadheading some flowers and look up to see my mother she is kneeling down sweeping the floor of some soil we had spilt the day before (she remembered discussing that had to be swept) but as I walk up Mavis gets up she is slightly pulling her shirt down as if she know something is wrong, but cannot quite understand what, I gently put my hand on her arm and whisper in her ear, ‘Mum you need to put your trousers on to come outside’ Luckily she does not seem embarrassed . But I am crying tears of sadness inside.
I made two date and walnut cakes and roast parsnips and potatoes for dinner, were both happy with that.