By G Hemson
All my life I had been very fond of one of my aunts. She was always so funny; a vibrant personality, a spade was a spade and in her broad Lancashire dialect she would tell us stories of her Land Army days, and have all us children in stitches.
After those days, she worked in the mill, so she would ‘mee-maw’ words as they did in the mill, copied by Les Dawson the comedian from television. My cousin rang: “Mum’s in a nursing home. She fell and now she is so confused. Would you like to visit her? “
We decided we would that very afternoon. We took a small fresh cream cake; she loved them. She would put her finger in them, taste it and say “My favourite” then laugh like a naughty child. Actually it was her 96th birthday, so we took candles as well, flowers and a card.
Arriving there, we were escorted to a small room with tables and chairs. Her voice carried along the passageway. We were ready for her smiles. She stared at us.
She sat down looking at us making no comment. We kissed her on her cheek and held her now frail hand. Her vacant expression and lifeless eyes followed our smiling faces.
A few moments passed by. Then a glint in her eye, thank God, now a smile. “Wer asta bin. It’s bin ages since I saw thee.” We take a deep breath, then she looks at John, hides her face with her hand and ‘mee-maws’ to me: “I don’t know how he keeps going. Al them operations, ees lucky ter be alive. Ee, a big strong fella like that.”
She pats his hand and smiles. He smiles back and nods. Thank goodness, a lucid moment.
“Nah then, ow’s them bonny kids, and whatsername, yer know, thingermejig wi that big ‘ouse an’ garden. Yer know, we played dominows wit kids. Ee, we ad a nice time.”
At last taking a breath she continues: “Remember, lass, when I came ower. Them kiddies made me laugh.”
“We took my mother with us. Irene.”
“Who? I don’t know any Irene.”
“Well I tell thee I don’t know her.” She bangs the table and slumps back into her chair.
“Aunty, please tell us some stories of your Land Army days. Where did you go dancing? Where did you meet Uncle Jack?” Hoping for a response.
She’s mulling things over. “No no,” she shouts, “I don’t know any b**** Irene.”
Like a magician I pull out of the bag the cake, candles, flowers and card. The carer puts the candles in and lights the cake.
“Come on, cheer up, it’s your 96th birthday.”
“It’s not. I don’t ever remember ever being this age.”
We sing, she smiles, and sits back in the chair, queenly like.
“I only want a small piece. I hate cream cakes.”
“Your friend is here,” said the carer, “can she have a piece?” and gives her a plate.
She walks out of the room, and a sudden outburst erupts.
“Why are these people here? I don’t know them and she’s not my friend. Give me back that cake you b******s,” she shouts, banging the table, sending things flying all over.
“I want to go back to my house.”
Suddenly she rants and rages, and horrific stories are shouted out with a load of bad language.
“Time to go I think,” we nod to the carer.
“Come on Vera,” she says to aunty. “Let’s go a walk. How do you fancy a tot of whisky?” and takes her hand and walks down the passage, aunty still shouting.
We wait while she turns the corridor and out of sight.
She had no idea who we were. Tears fill our eyes; we clasp each other’s hands as the lift arrives.
This is so cruel. This devastating debilitating condition leaves us with a heavy heart. John speaks softly: “There’s 24 hours in a day. Let’s try and live it to the full, and love each other before the
mist covers our minds and we become engulfed in a lost world.”