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  • The events I related in ‘The last month turned’ might have described the end of one chapter of mum’s life, but it also marked the start of another. But whats both sad yet heartening is how the embers of her previous life smoulder on in her new one, just needing the cool breeze of a memory to fan them into life.

    And sometimes this can be touching yet in its own way rather hilarious.

    I should digress slightly here and point out that my mum was very very houseproud. Forget any notion of houseproud you’ve ever contemplated previously, this was pride of house that was exemplary. When I was quite young we moved house. Before we departed for the new home, mum had us whitewash the walls behind where the refrigerator, cooker and washing machine had been in the old kitchen, places nobody ever thinks about far less sees, saying earnestly that it was:

    “so the new people in our house wouldn’t think we lived like tramps.”

    I have always been interested in such conundrums even from a very young age, and so dutifully pointed out my carefully considered observation:

    “But ma, we did live like tramps then, the walls were always unpainted when we lived here.”

    This did not go down very well at all.

    Anyway, fast forward thirty years, and the first time my partner and I took our Border Collie (Corrie) to meet my mum. There was a lot of frantic snuffling. Mum sitting perplexed on her sofa, the dog at her feet hypnotically fixated on the two inch gap between sofa and floor between mum’s shoes. After a while we just had to investigate, despite my mum adamantly assuring us there was nothing there.

    “I don’t know whats going on, theres’s nothing there, nothing!” she said with the authority of a mother.

    But there was.

    It was a sausage.

    A fat, somewhat dry and fluff-covered, but perfectly edible sausage.

    Which the dog demolished with a whuffle of ecstasy! And subsequently stood staring at mum with a strangely mesmerised gaze, one that was part reverence, part expectation. (Collie eyes can portray an astonishing range of emotions.)

    Mum was horrified, partly by the sausage, but also by the fluff “Where did that sausage come from? Is that yours? It’s not mine! Did the dog bring that in? It must have, I didn’t put it there!”

    It became a running gag every time we visited, the ever-hopeful collie darting across the room straight to mum to whirl around her like a dervish and finally to lie at her feet. A collie way of being that is all about closeness, rubbing up against mum’s legs with obvious pleasure. But one beady eye was always always fixed on the dark gap that might, just might, reveal another sausage. Hopeful. Ever hopeful.

    But there never ever was another sausage under the sofa. However mum was always there, sitting on it. And Corrie the dog loved that pavlovian maternal predictability and warmth.

    But that lost sausage was a sign, an early indicator of a forgotten task, one of many that would layer themselves upon mum’s existence in the following few years. Absence of mind insinuated by the presence of something undone.

    And then mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy. The dog’s behaviour changed, she became more gentle and concerned, no more bouncy mad collie antics, but a subdued and altogether less manic way of being towards mum. After the operation and with mum recovered, the dog resumed the very affecting madness that defines those canines that are bordering on the collie. The dog just knew. In that way that only very intelligent animals do.

    Now, with dementia, the memory of the wayward sausage is long gone from mum’s mind, or at best perhaps fleetingly there if I mention it to her, and she has a laugh.

    But Corrie the dog has not forgotten.

    We go to mum’s room in the care home and Corrie is always in there first, hind quarters going sideways as her tail almost wags off, before launching herself towards mum. They have a history, these two, one forged through illness, mutual affection, and a sausage.

    The notion of dementia might be disheartening, but the reality can occasionally be wonderful when it has moments that involve a collie you can’t always remember but which remembers you, and treats you like the dear old friend that you are, with unconditional, totally unrestrained and overwhelming affection.

    But hoping too. Always, always hoping…………………………
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