I had a lovely evening last night. I took my 7 year old daughter, Martha to the local theatre to see a production of Annie. She has been counting down the weeks, the days and finally yesterday, the hours until our evening together. She has watched the film (the new, very politically correct version of the film) time and time again over the past several weeks, learning the words to most of the songs (getting tongue tied over “bet your bottom dollar”) and has asked me probably a million times what time we need to leave the house? What time we’re going for pizza first? What should she wear? What I am wearing? And she has checked and double checked what her two siblings will be having for tea in her absence – making sure she’s not missing out on sausages!
To be honest, I was getting a bit scared that the evening would not live up to her sky-high expectations and it did not get off to a great start when Hubby didn’t arrive home on time, despite my clear instructions. Apparently he arrived at his car last night only to realise that he’d left his keys at work, so, on the night I needed him home prompt, quick-smart, no dilly-dallying, he had to meander back to work to collect his keys and back to his car again. I am sure he did rush for me, perhaps he even strode purposefully, but last night as Martha and I hovered at the front door the only image I could conjure was of him dawdling, taking in the lovely evening sunshine and beautiful Harrogate Stray! I need not have worried, despite us almost missing out on our Italian feast first we did make it to the restaurant in time (just) and made the theatre with enough time for a toilet stop before getting to our seats. And… the show was fantastic! Martha sat spell-bound throughout the whole thing, apart from when she looked at me, shocked and disappointed when the curtain came down for the interval and I had to quickly explain to her that it was just a break and time for a tub of incredibly expensive ice cream! I loved the show, it was simply wonderful, but I loved watching my daughter and her wide-eyed wonder more. It was magical and something Martha and I have shared together – something I know I will never forget.
My mum used to love going to the theatre. I lived in London for a number of years in my twenties and every time my parents came to visit I would book tickets to see a play or a West End musical. We saw My Fair Lady, The Woman in Black, The Lion King, Les Miserables, Blood Brothers….they were magical moments. I remember watching Buddy at Leeds Grand when I was perhaps only about 17 and Mum was up dancing in the aisles (not on her own like some crazy lady – lots of people were also up and joining in!) singing along at the top of her voice, loving every moment of it.
The last time I was at Harrogate Theatre was when my parents came down for Christmas a few years ago and we took them and the kids to the panto. It was fabulous. We had a truly wonderful, magical evening and I have a photo of my family sitting in their seats, we were the first to arrive in the Stalls, eager for the show to begin. All caught up in the pre-Christmas excitement, enjoying spending quality time together and witnessing the kids’ sheer joy at everything from the Christmas lights in town to the “HE’S BEHIND YOU!” moments.
Oh how I’d love to jump through that picture now and be back there again with Mum, even just for a day.
I would have loved to have shared my special mother-daughter day with my mum yesterday. I tried; I called and told her what we had planned and how excited we were, but she didn’t really understand. She has retreated so far and so deep into her world that it is very difficult now to have a conversation at all. When face-timing her last week with my sister, Emma surprised me by asking her outright near the start of our face-time session if she knew who we were. I never do this, I am too frightened of the answer and as I feared, in words that tore at both mine and my sister’s hearts she admitted that no, she did not know who we were. I am not as brave as my sister, not as ready to tackle it head-on some days. Perhaps it is because she deals with terrible situations and sees the injustice of life in her job as a senior nurse on an Intensive Care Ward, or perhaps she is just stronger than me. I kid myself every day that of course she knows me and sometimes when I hear her voice and she is having a decent day I can fool myself into thinking that all is as it once was and all will be well.
Annie may well live by her mantra of tomorrow being another day and a promise that the sun will shine again, but, of course I know that there is no fairy-tale happy ending with dementia. Living with no hope is tough however, and maybe that is sometimes why I kid myself and try to dodge the difficult questions or moments with Mum. Perhaps the only way for me to find my way through this difficult journey is to kid myself that of course there is a magical world over the rainbow, or that the slimy frog will turn into a handsome Prince, that good will overcome evil and the red-headed orphan will have her Happily-Ever-After with her loving and kind billionaire father figure. After all, I grew up watching Walt Disney movies where if you wished hard enough, your dreams came true and read stories where if you could just think happy thoughts then you could fly!
Perhaps this is the only way I am able to deal with it right now; head down, braced against the incoming storm whilst thinking happy thoughts about miracles and happy endings and naively expecting the sun to bloody shine again tomorrow! Perhaps I am just not ready to admit defeat or ready to acknowledge my loss. Perhaps I am just not ready to say goodbye.