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Remembering the real mum

This week’s storyteller has chosen to be anonymous.

Losing a parent forever and finding them again.

Dementia can take a parent away emotionally long before they leave you physically. But it’s not always the end.

Today I felt a connection with my mum.

It’s been a while, and it was lovely.

Mum died four years ago. We lost her a long time before that, as dementia turned my smiling, serene mother into a scary, angry stranger who wouldn’t and couldn’t talk about what was happening to her.

I know it sounds strange, but when the vicar came to tea to plan the funeral, wanting to get a picture of who she had been, we couldn’t tell him. We just couldn’t remember. The poor vicar had never been involved in a dementia story before, and clearly found the whole thing completely puzzling. But it had been such a long, drawn-out process, we really couldn’t recall how mum had been before she became ill.

Now it’s slowly starting to come back, at least for me, and I am grateful.

My memory was sparked by Boxing Day lunch. For complicated reasons, my dad felt he couldn’t join us at our house for Christmas. Could we instead bring him a helping of lunch the next day and stay long enough to watch him eat it? This small request turned into cold meats and bubble and squeak for nine, cooked by me in my parents’ kitchen and served at their huge dining table, just like in the old days, except that I was playing the part of my mother, perched on the chair at the corner of the table nearest the kitchen.

As I sat looking round at “my” guests, I connected with my mother. This is what she did, day after day, creating warming, home-cooked meals for her family of six, and even more on special occasions. Smiling cheerfully at our banter and always ready to jump up, clear the plates and bring in the next course.

It’s a real step forward for me. I probably was always closer to mum than any of my siblings, but I’ve struggled to feel good about her since a while before her death. Now the warm and fuzzy feeling is starting to trickle back.

And we will probably all be able to share that feeling now, as my brother is planning to transfer the hundreds of family slides from my father’s collection onto disk for us all. Just being able to see the photos from our childhood will prompt memories of many happy times, and return our mum to the heart of the family.

Have you lost sight of the real person as a parent moves deeper into dementia? Have you discovered ways to keep the connection alive? Let us know with a comment below.

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