Friday, 30 January 2015

Discovering the present by remembering the past

 I had an enjoyable visit with my mum on Tuesday. It can be quite difficult to know what to do when we visit these days – the boys especially don’t like to go on their own because they are at a loss. Mum can be rather confused – she may talk to people who aren’t there, or about things that haven’t actually happened, or she will be so sleepy that she is incomprehensible. The worst scenario is when she tries to sort out her confusion because this just makes her unhappy.

Mum doesn’t really have a present. She is not strong enough to do anything in the present. When she looks at her present there is confusion, discomfort and dissatisfaction. I can sometimes stimulate an interest in colours or textures in her surroundings, but this will depend on how awake she is. She also does not have a future. She is not going to get better or suddenly stop being at the end of her life. Her only future is more of the same and eventually to die. Sometimes her awareness of this causes her to resent that I do have a present, so I avoid talking about things in my life – though she is always happy to hear what the boys are doing. All she has that is interesting and enlivening is a rich and creative past.

On Tuesday she was sleepy for the first half of my visit and not really with me. Then she suddenly asked me whether ’ö-Dzin still cycled to work everyday. I was then able to talk to her about her memories of cycling when she was younger. This led to other memories and a conversation was born. It was wonderful to watch her becoming more animated through the stimulus of remembering, and as she became more alert she became more comprehensible.

Perhaps I have been dense in not doing this before, but at times it can be difficult to steer conversations around memories away from what she has lost. In future I will always try to find a memory that can stimulate a lively conversation – it does not even matter if it is the same memories again. She was always such a busy person making things and being a creative home-maker. Her home was her canvas. Trying to show her photographs doesn't work as she cannot concentrate on them, but I can talk about memories with her. If this can evoke such light-hearted liveliness and affection it will be wonderful. Remembering the past can actually give her an enlivened present.

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