My mother has vascular dementia. This means there is no drug programme or rehabilitation programme or hope that we can halt her decline. She is folding in on herself and every now and again has another vascular “episode” (read “stroke”) after which she has declined a whole step further. It’s not a smooth slope, more a staircase down to hell.
Some days she is confused about what is going on, Those days are rarer as she loses connection ot the outside world.
She’s not too bad yet. We can have conversations, so long as they don’t last more than about 60 seconds. She still knows who I am, at least I think she does most of the time. And she is generally happy because she sits and sings the same tune to herself all day. She doesn’t cry or seem distressed.
So the thing is – I want to record something about her as a younger, more assertive person. She was a caution! She got thrown out of dance halls for jitter-bugging with the American service men who were over here. She was the life and soul of the party. My dad followed her about like a puppy. She was funny and sharp and brilliant at Pitman’s shorthand and typing and getting stuff organised.
The best of her stories though, for me, was about the male colleague who was harassing the girls in the office. This would have been in the early 1950s I suppose; she and Dad married in 1957. Basically the slime was making the girls’ lives misery what with the comments and the bum-punching and so on. One day he tried it with my mother, who was not standing for any of it,.
That lunchtime she went out to Woolworths and bought a bottle of the cheapest perfume she could find. When she got back to the office and the guy came up again she poured the entire bottle over his trousers.
“Not the jacket,” she told me. “He could have taken the jacket off.”
She poured it over his trousers so he had to spend all afternoon in the office stinking of cheap perfume and his colleagues, including his boss, knew why. Then he had to go home and explain it to his wife.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” she said, with a gleam in her eye.
She was amazing; this is the woman I try to see when I get exasperated dealing with the mad old bat.