A poem: unforgiving

Why should I forgive

when you beat me black and blue?

Why should I forgive,

when you never said ‘I love you’?,

until you got awfully, really ill,

and you wrapped me

in embrace,

a blankness on your face.

Because you never could connect.

You always hit my face,

my cheek, my neck.

Yet your depleted, needy form

removes my urge to skill, perform.

And so I sit, allowed and free.

Unforgiving keeps me trapped

between the oldest, youngest you

and a newer, freer me.

A poem: sitting with my dying mother

At first, my tissue fills with tears.

Unable to tolerate the smell, or my fears.

The nurses so kind, so matter of fact,

while my guilt and my grief are tightly packed.

But it’s not about me. Holding on tight,

she’ll let go when her heart loses fight.

Until that time, she’s curled tight in a ball:

no control of her mind, mouth, body or soul.

And me? I sit quiet, in a meditative lull.

On life and death, this is a chance to mull.

A poem: ambivalence for my dying mother

We’ve never been close

you’ve always resented that.

So you lashed out and used

the shaming sting of your slap

to keep me in my place.

Neither too clever or too cool:

I was only ever safe

as a perfect extension of you.

So now you’re close to dying.

It’s been a rapid, vicious decline.

My resentment for your blows is

twisted round some thorny vine.

I’d love to find forgiveness,

some sense your life was worth

all those prickly punishments;

that your purpose was divine.

How can I celebrate Mother’s Day when my mum has dementia?

inktuition dementia mother's day copy

Mother’s Day hasn’t been the same to me for the last four years. Yes, I have a mother who’s alive. But no, she hasn’t known I exist for the past handful of Mothering Sundays.

My mother is 68 years old. She has Pick’s Disease, an aggressive form of dementia. The illness has had her in its vicious and unrelenting grip for at least 10 years.

Unlike other gradual forms of dementia that strike when the person is older, my mother’s strain came early and was swift and debilitating. Four years ago she knew me, she came on holiday with me, and she looked like a ‘normal’, healthy woman in her mid-60s. Yes, she was conscious that she was losing her memory. But she could still walk, talk, feed herself and go to the toilet and have a bath on her own. She could even dress herself and order herself a cup of tea – though money could be an issue, as she’d be inclined to forget where it was or just hand over far more cash than was required.

In the space of four years, she degenerated from a functioning human being to a bedridden soul who has the cognitive and physical abilities of a six-month-old baby. She can’t sit up. She can’t walk.  She can’t tie her shoelaces. And she can’t count. She doesn’t know her own name. And she certainly doesn’t know who the strange person is sitting beside her bed. Just as a child learns new skills, she has gradually been stripped of hers. As I am stripped of hope.

It’s been about two and a half years since she last recognised me. The last time she was able to talk coherently, she was fighting with her carer who was trying to get her into the car. And when I said, hey, it’s your daughter, come with me, she replied with much authority: “I don’t have any children!” At that stage she was regressing into her very early years, the way people with dementia do. And I had to hold the hurt of rejection without being able to show it.

So, the poor soul into whose eyes I look for some kind of flicker of remembrance remained lost and on the tips of her own netherworld today. Just as I remain lost in that space with a mother in body, and yet without a mother in mind.

What gets me through Mother’s Day is knowing that, somehow, I still have a mother in spirit.

I wish dark chocolate could have saved my mother from dementia…

It was with a mixture of humour and sadness that I read in the news today that dark chocolate can help to keep dementia at bay

The humorous side of me was pleased to see that chocolate has a function beyond making us feel we’re not missing sex so much (or at least putting us in the mood for it).

Scientists at the Italian University of L’Aquila found that it’s the flavanols in dark chocolate (and in tea, grapes and red wine) that can improve the brain power of people over 70.

Scientists say dark chocolate can help keep Alzheimer’s at bay. (pic: istockphoto.com/unalozmen)

I love the fact that I have another excuse (as if I needed one) for another square of my favourite dark chocolate.The sadness comes from knowing that it’s too late for my mother, who’s been ‘owned’ by a swift and vicious form of dementia for about eight years. When she was way off approaching 70.

The irony – if you can call it that – is that she loved chocolate.  It’s just a shame she preferred the sweeter milk-chocolate varieties.

Now, where did I put my organic Green & Black’s…?