SPECIAL DISCLAIMER: This misery memoir-type post will probably make you wince, Dear Reader, but not everything in life is funny or quirky. I post it to get this off my chest, and it might help someone else in a similar position to know that they’re not the only one.

 

Dear Mum,

 

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I’m sorry I walked out on you this afternoon and down the hall ignoring your wails of distress. My patience was at an end for the afternoon, my day, the Boywonder’s 17th birthday, ruined. I can’t bear the way I behave when I’m around you and I was told by my husband that the way I speak to you is destructive. I’m sorry. I have to change. I have to develop more patience. But how?

I hate it when people say “I’m sorry, but…” You’re either sorry or you’re not. Why make excuses? This letter is an “I’m sorry, but…” and it makes me dislike myself even more.

Your chickens have come home to roost in the last few months: the years of holding court, of jabbing the air and lecturing an audience who humoured you because of your seniority, of listening to no-one, of changing the subject whenever you felt like it, of expecting everyone to do your bidding. People now come to your door only out of duty. Those who can avoid your company do. And it makes you sad but you are bewildered about why this has happened. I know you are almost deaf now, and that’s certainly not your fault, but it’s odd how you seem to hear exactly what you want to hear, how any conversation is always focused on exactly what you want to say AT everyone. And how I have to risk my fragile, reconstructed voice to make myself heard every time I’m with you.

Yes. You’ve been difficult, inconsiderate, miserly, self-centred, unwilling to learn anything new for as long as I can remember. We’ve always had to jump to your tune. Dad gave up in the end. Gentle, he was, and frustrated, and when completely blind and dependent on you he meekly, gradually lost the will to live.

And now, increasingly forgetful, you are stuck further in your 1930s rural India time-warp world. Your “high functioning Alzheimer’s-type dementia” holds you in its unyielding, tightening fist as it gradually chokes all the sense, the rationality out of you. You could never see anyone else’s point of view before; now any reasoning with you is totally futile. Any new conversational gambit is useless. Unable to accept anything from me, you are nevertheless dependent on me and yet you treat me like you do. The same old stories, again and again on a loop, a comfort blanket for the consciousness that is inexorably slipping way from you. You were never interested in me before so why, how, can you start now? You want me to talk yet when I do you refuse to listen and talk over every solitary sentence. Any conversation is meaningless. Your behavioural boundaries were hazy before, now they have more or less ceased to exist.

And yet, when you smile that vulnerable, little-old-lady smile, oblivious to the years of hurt and conflict you have just exacerbated, I am completely aware how heavily the burden of responsibility for your welfare, your well-being rests on my shoulders.

I must be serene. I must be kinder. I must have more patience. I must do better. I’m wrong. I shall never escape my childhood. You have probably forgotten everything already but today, as all similar days, gnaws away at my conscience, with ever larger, yellower teeth.

I’ll just have to try harder.

 

G

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