wings and things

Parallel universe

I think one of the things that is most bewildering, if you are caring for someone with dementia, is the fine line between present-tense lucidity and remembered lucidity.

For example, when I visited Anthony the other day, he was eager to tell me the latest news:

Anthony: Have you seen the news, Jules? We have a new prime minister.

Me: Yes, I saw that too.

Okay, so the above shows how absolutely ‘on the ball’ Anthony can be especially when it comes to current events. I always leave the news channel on his television before I come home because he has always loved watching the news.

But the very next thing Anthony said amazed me ….

Anthony: Mum will be shocked!

This is the kind of conversation that always gives me pause as I try to process the fact that Anthony has, within less than a minute, conflated the reality of now with the reality of over three decades ago. It sometimes seems extraordinary to me that Anthony can so expertly move between eras in the space of a couple of sentences.

Perhaps this is why what used to seem tragic to me has now become fascinating, and sometimes even comforting. After all, I loved Anthony’s mother, who we younger ones called ‘Gar’ so I was catapulted into nostalgia-land briefly, remembering her canny opinions on politics.

Me: Do you think she approves of the leadership change?

Anthony: Yes, but is she all right?

Me: She’s fine, Ants.

One of the last things Gar said to me as she lay in the hospital bed, dying, and I held her hand, was, “You will look after Anthony won’t you”, and I promised her I would. When I made that promise, Ants and I were still eons away from having a romantic relationship, let alone a marriage! So, in retrospect, it was a bit of a far-fetched promise, but I meant it.

Of course, as a teenager, I had no idea how things would all unfold. It is uncanny now to be reassuring Anthony (who is approaching the age Gar was when she died) that she is all right.

‘Parallel universe’ seems to be the phrase that best describes the strange but wonderful space in which Anthony and I connect, cognitively and emotionally.