Monday, 30 January 2012

Circus maximus*


Conversation with my mother Joan, now 101 and bedridden, has been difficult for several years. She is almost totally deaf. Sometimes visitors communicate with her by writing things down in her conversation book. She reads what has been written and answers orally. A glance through her conversation books turns up some extraordinarily bizarre one-sided conversations. I had thought at one time of writing a novel, probably a fairly short one, in which the narrative advances by means of one-sided conversations, leaving the reader to imagine the missing lines and thus engage more fully with the leading character. Towards the end of his life the equally deaf Beethoven communicated in the same way, and his Konversationshefte, many of which have been preserved, are sometimes revealing of the mighty struggles going on inside his head and the stream of often very complex music which sought to resolve them.

But sometimes my mother's hearing picks up inexplicably. A recent conversation went as follows:

Joan: I've been in Rome, you know.

Chris: Have you?

J.: They sent me there. On a mission.

C.: Who better than you?

J.: I had to get the formula.

C: And did you manage to get it?

J.: No, I didn't.

C.: A question of money?

J.: Exactly. It was very disappointing.

C.: I'm sorry. You can't do much without capital.

J.: Indeed you cannot. The story of my life.

A deep sigh and a long pause.

J.: Have you been to Rome?

C.: No.

J.: Neither have I.

Shortly after this two carers come in to plump up her pillows and re-arrange her in bed ready for lunch. She feels she has to introduce me, although I know the care home staff reasonably well. 'Have you met my brother?' she asks them. At least she doesn't say 'Have you met my father?'

She's not raving. Please don't think that. I'm very happy that she seems perfectly content and logical in the little world of her imaginings. Who knows, she may start writing music soon.

*I know, it's the Coliseum. I just wanted to suggest things going round and round.

9 comments:

Rog said...

She had started to give you an insight into her earlier life as a Mata Hari spy but then thought better of it. Try and get her on the formula again - it could be Important ....

Vicus Scurra said...

He's back! He's back! It's the same one!

Liz said...

For someone of 101, that seems remarkably lucid. Perhaps you'll still be blogging when you're that age.

Christopher said...

Rog: I think Liz (below) bears a remarkable resemblance to Mata Hari, don't you?

Vicus: Couldn't stay away any longer, dear friend.

Liz: I think Rog (above) bears a remarkable resemblance to James Bond, don't you?

Z said...

A post from Chris! This has made my day!!

"Who better than you?" Brilliant feeder line.

Christopher said...

How kind, Z. And who better than you to say so, if I may?

Mike and Ann said...

Chris, it is lovely to hear from you. You remind me of a long conversation I had with my late grandmother a few weeks before her demise a good many years ago, and during which I featured (as far as she was concerned) as her father, my grandfather, my father, myself (for a very short time), and my son. She thoroughly enjoyed what she obviously considered to have been a mass family visit, and just before I left (and was appearing as myself for while) she told me that she couldn't remember having had (recently, anyway) a pleasanter afternoon.
I was glad she'd enjoyed it, but found it, personally, a little tiring.

Tim said...

Good to see you haven't lost your touch!
I have several anecdotes which abut to your theme, but I'll save them for another time, as I found your tale amusingly moving.

Christopher said...

M and A: Thanks for calling in. Very good to hear from you again. Yes, I recognise the pattern: when the carer in question told my mother I was her son and not her brother, she wouldn't believe him. I tend to let her believe what she wants to believe.

Tim: Glad to have you back. Looking forward to your forthcoming anecdotes.
I'm afraid mine tend more to anecdotage.