My Mum Pauline Palmer (PP for short, hence the tag) is still with us, but she's been suffering from dementia since at least 2018 (if not before) and the last year of lockdown has severely accelerated her decline. My siblings and I are struggling to come to terms with this half death / half life of our darling Mum. My hope is that by getting my thoughts and memories out of my head, I might be able to make some sense of this stage of her life and make sense of my response to it.
The version of my Mum who is still with us, is a bewildered, white-haired, little old lady, who bears no relationship to the powerhouse that was the marvellous Mrs Pauline Palmer. My Dad always calls her "P". To us she was Mummy, then Mum, now back to Mummy again. For her 30 years in Guiding (at all levels) she was "Wren". She would say "a Wren is a small bird, that makes an awful lot of noise". My Mum always claimed she was 5ft 1 and a half inches, but we said "5 foot nothing" and yes, she had a loud piercing voice when she felt like it! She was outwardly so confident, and sure of her self and what to do, in her environments - Home, Church, Family, Schools, Guiding. She was so musical, sang in so many choirs, rang bells.
She spent her life in service to others. She was incapable of passing someone who needed her help. We lived in a village growing up, with several nursing homes, sheltered housing, elderly folks still in their homes. If she saw anyone waiting by the road or walking along, she screech to a half, wind down the window and then give them a lift wherever. We were forever late for things because of this. As a child and teenager I found this embarrassing. Now I love the woman she was.
I find it heart-breaking that she served so many people, and now when she needs us and the wider community, there is no one to help her. My mum is currently in a nursing home for a few weeks having a needs assessment. We're trying to find a care home that can cater for both Dad and her, closer to my brother or sister. The speed of her decline has been so hard to understand. I have missed the last of everything. Even before 2018, she was slowly losing her memory, getting confused. I can't remember the last time I had a "real conversation" with her - at this point I would even take one of the confused conversations with her. She doesn't recognize us on the phone now. I just hope that once we find her somewhere safe to live and be cared for, and when we can see her and touch her, some magical muscle memory will kick in and she will know its us and that we love her.
Lockdown has been so hard on her and us. I was with them this time last year for a weekend. Mum still knew me then, but was not really speaking or interacting, was bewildered most of the time. But the childlike joy would shine out every now and again, like in the photo here of her with a favourite cuddly toy....
I went over in July 2020 between lockdowns, but Mum was in hospital the first time then so I didn't see her. When I see photos of her from the last 6 months, the light and soul has gone from her eyes. Dementia is such a shitty disease. I have cried so much in the last year, as the realization of losing her has kicked in. I can't often admit to these feelings, but when I do, the emotional floodgates open.
There is such a cruel irony to all of this. I have so many memories of my wonderful Mum, a storm of stories, piles of photos - and yet she hardly recognizes me. These blogs will be my therapy and a way of sharing these stories and photos with those who know her and love her...I am hoping that these blog posts (tag:pp) will help me record the good bits and will help me focus on these. I want to help me and others remember the wonderful family life we had and all the memories; to celebrate the impact she made on all those around her.
L to R
My Mum, sister and I - we were in a friend's garden (can't remember who) and I remember we'd just been mucking around - you can tell we're all still laughing. I think I'm around 16 here, so mum would be 47. Oh my god, same ages as I am now...
At Westminster Abbey, we'd been at a Thinking Day ceremony, playing with the National Scout & Guide Symphony Orchester. I'm first year Uni, so 19/20. I'd just been presented with my Queen's Guide
At "Imagine" having brunch, following Patrick's Blessing, this was 2012. Mum & Dad came over 5+ times to Zurich, the last time in 2016 when the boys were 5 & 7 - Mum was already "not her self" then...
In Vassal's Park, near Frenchay, Dec 2018 after Christmas. Mum knew who we all were, but was already withdrawing and not really speaking much. This is the last photo I have of her with me.
And here are my original notes before writing this post.