Could forgetfulness be some kind of germ – catching, transmittable, etc? I only ask because… because….
Well, as you know my mother’s got dementia. I’m not at all sure she knows who I am now – if she looks up at all when I go in, it is with a vague sort of puzzlement. I might be anybody, from cleaner to carer to relative to friend. The important thing is, can I reach her water jug? Can I untangle her sheets?
And of course, you start to check yourself – daily, hourly, by the minute. Why didn’t that fact spring to mind? Why was there that slight hesitation over someone’s name? Have I just done something peculiar? Would I know if I had?
The other night the new lady came round from next door. She introduced herself. After she’d gone I went straight through to the kitchen, scribbled “Claire” on a slip of paper and taped it to the fridge. Gotcha!
Next night she came round again. We were talking about a workman who might be needed to do a repair on her house. “He does know you want to see him,” I assured her. “I told him that your name was Claire.”
“Ros,” she said.
At least it’s not just me. Yesterday one of my elderly neighbours very kindly offered to help me with my many cats if ever the need arose. “I’ve written my number on a piece of paper,” she said. “You have only to call me and I’ll come straight over.”
“That’s so kind of you,” I said, “but aren’t you allergic to cats?”
“No,” she said. “I love little moggies.”
Now a few years back she told me she couldn’t take in a particularly muddy, flea-ridden and unneutered stray kitten herself, though she would have loved to, since she was allergic. Started sneezing and coughing almost straight away, she did. (That’s how I got George.) Several times she’s come to the door and I’ve invited her in and she’s dithered in terror on my doorstep. “Oh no, I couldn’t. I’m allergic, you see. Start sneezing and coughing almost straight away…”
Has she forgotten the allergy or the fib? Or could I over the years somehow have fabricated an entire narrative, in several successive parts, about my neighbour and her allergy to cats? Either way, I’ve got to think of a way for her to feel useful and wanted now that she no longer has her disabled sister to care for – which I suspect is what she really needs – without letting her loose on my rambunctious and precious moggies, at least in any unsupervised capacity.
And finally, as they say on the News. Late this afternoon I telephoned the vet’s receptionist . “Could I make an appointment for Rufus to come in and have his claws clipped by the nurse?”
“Certainly,” she said. We discussed possible dates as she leafed through the diary. In the background I could hear somebody muttering “Anal glands, anal glands.”
That’s odd, I thought. Maybe there’s someone standing behind her, trying to remind her of the urgent anal glands of some other furry client.
“Yes,” she said, “Rufus can come in for his anal glands on Saturday morning.”
“Um, where are you getting anal glands from? Poor little chap, he was only expecting a manicure…
“Not anal glands?”
No, really, just his claws.”
“Oh dear! Where did I get anal glands from?”
Who knows? How did Ros metamorphose into Claire between the front door and the refrigerator? And where did my neighbour’s allergy disappear to?
It’s a mystery.