Sunday, 26 January 2014


I don't need to turn around to know she is there.

'Hello - How lovely to see you,' I call. 'Come in and sit down why don't you.'

Cath hesitates in the doorway but smiles and comes in. She looks thinner I notice, her face has taken on a gauntness I recognise. She hovers near the window clutching her shoulder bag. Her shoes are on and her cardy is done up as though ready to leave.

'How are you, Cath? '

She screws up her nose unsure of how to answer.

'Not sure where I'm supposed to be,' she utters shyly. ' I think it's somewhere over there.' She gestures down to the garden.

Mum stirs for a moment and my attention shifts until she settles again - mouth open.

'Are you off somewhere today Cath? Are your family coming to visit?'

The question is too complicated but at least she still has some conversation. She drops into the armchair with a weary sigh as though coming in from a hard days graft. I remember mum doing the same at this stage. With some amusement we would ask what she'd been up to and she would reel off a list of jobs she used to do. It got less funny as time went on. To the untrained eye all was well, mobility, demeanour, dress sense. Only as conversation ensued did one realise things were not as they seemed. The beginning of the end had begun.

'I like your cardy,' I offer with genuine encouragement. And in truth, it is quite becoming on her sleight figure.

She looks down to study herself and spots the blob of something from breakfast.

'Did you get dressed by yourself ?'

Intrigued by the question, Cath pulls the zip on her cardigan down to reveal a pyjama top which she shows me.

A sudden flash of Mum flushed with effort asking 'Is this right?' Her face searching  for reassurance of the topsy-turvy ensemble hanging on her frame.

'Oh - very nice, ' I laugh. Cath smiles too, enjoying the joke.

I concentrate on mum's sleeping face pondering her journey from awareness to oblivion. In the background Cath searches her cuffs for...a hanky? Unrewarded, she opens her bag and finds one but the intention is already lost. She stares at the flimsy white square before shredding it. The instinct is so familiar - like having two mums in the room. Before and after.

'I'm sure I'm supposed to be somewhere.' She looks nervous, fidgety.

'Don't worry, you're safe here and if you feel lost, there is always someone to ask isn't there. They're good people, very caring.'

'But I feel so...' she searches the air with her hand before drawing it back to the nape of her neck. '...hopeless.'

Her eyes are beseeching me to help so I say a silent prayer asking for some.

Mum stirs again.

'This is my mum,' I blurt. 'Her name is Mary and if she could she would sit up and have a lovely chat with you.'

Cath smiles sympathetically as she takes in the tiny mound beneath the new pink blanket. For a moment the room is filled with the hissing and creaking of pressure pads as they inflate and deflate in turn. Her eyes travel to mum's face which is relaxed and far beyond care for the what, who and how of everyday life.

'It's sad to think some poor people can end up like this.' She murmurs comfortingly.