Multitasking

Where once my tasks were multiple, and I fielded them with ease and—some might agree—skill, I’ve now boiled down to single tracks, from which I veer unconsciously, losing track, having to go back to the start and repeat myself. Or, to keep myself rolling towards the initial goal, I produce sentences like that last one, and this, like a puppy, giddy with love and the constrained freedom of the beloved, running all over a hillside or a beach, circling the main path on which her focus walks, creating virtuous, virtual circles, like a Venn diagram of love.

Trying to catch a thought, embedding it, tasting and savouring enough to identify a thread and write about it, write it down, is difficult with a Teflon mind. Everything slides away.

I have been ploughing through my tax return, labelling thousands of lines on a spreadsheet as this kind of work, that kind of work, travel, personal, cash. An odd way to look at a life. It’s not even about the numbers, more deciding what’s in and what’s out, for each category… pulling apart experiences that were whole, mincing them into finer, less identifiable and less arguable pieces. It doesn’t help form any mental continuity, other than getting through it and reaching the end.

This morning, I slept long and deep. Now, I am cleaning… a single idea like a beacon hovering in front of me, a simple set of criteria—learned from my grandmother, mother, TV shows and endless repetition—making sense and coherence of the chaos, dust and laundry. I think it is helping.

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Mum is forgetting

My mother has finally said – out loud – that something is wrong. On the phone today she told me she got confused, and knew that her forgetting wasn’t the ordinary kind. I have known it for nearly a year, pricked into considering it when she told the doctor my father had dementia and made him go to the hospital for tests.

Their doctor also tested Dad with comprehension and spelling questions. He’s dyslexic, undiagnosed in his youth, had to develop strategies for any kind of spellings. When asked to spell “would” backwards, he put an “r” in every time. R comes before D in words like those, he said. The doctor worked it out, and came back with clear results from all the tests – nothing’s wrong, you’re fine, and your memory is pretty good for a man in his 80s. Mum was disappointed. If the problem wasn’t with him, it might then be hers.

When they’d described the problems they’d had – things that had been forgotten, appointments missed, names confused – it was obvious to me that the common denominator was Mum. She had been unusually fractious when anything went wrong. Her normal need for complete control was challenged by her forgetfulness and confusion, making her angry and bewildered. How frustrating: to be in charge all your life, then lose it. No-one really knew what was happening, and those – like my Dad – who usually went along with Mum’s queening carried on as if she was still in control… which made her feel more anxious, I think.

She knows that not being in charge isn’t how she wants to live. At this stage of life, having never adapted to anyone else’s leadership or wishes, she is realising that the life she’s known will end. She doesn’t want a different kind of life. On the phone today she said she hadn’t long to live. I don’t think she means that she’ll die, more that the person she is, is disappearing, and will – sooner or later – stop.

She’s fairly healthy, though unfit, so her body may survive the loss of its familiar spirit. I wonder how long a physical human animal can go on being without knowing who it is?