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  • On arriving at my Grandmothers care home I overheard two ladies chatting about how someone called Mabel doesn't talk about her old friend Douglas Bader anymore. Apparently there is still a photo in this ladies room of the two of them, but it fails to trigger her memories. I can't help but wonder if her family have taken the time to capture those stories for others. Such amazing life journeys. Hinted at on the walls yet scarcely recorded outside of snatched photos. I have tried to capture my Grandmothers wartime tales, but the dementia had to kick in before I got serious about it. And then on the whole it was too late.

    It's day three for my Gran in her new home. I found her sat in a bright conservatory next to a woman reading the first page of an old hardback book and another browsing a magazine. Three elderly ladies, in high-backed chairs, all silvery haired, with colourful, almost identical dresses.

    Nonna (as we call her) was sleeping in a large blue wing-backed chair. Looking warm and peaceful in an woollen gold flecked cardigan over her dark blue dress. She had a china doll on her lap. One from her small incomplete collection. I think it’s called Lola.

    She woke with a start at the whisper of her name and smiled when she recognised me. A cliche I know but I handed her a bag of paper wrapped mints and saw them get the attention of others in the room. She offered them around and they took one each. Then, as is her trademark, she forced them to take more and would not take no for an answer.

    They chatted about how much they loved the mints and I enjoyed the interaction. There was even laughter when I made a joke about false teeth. My Gran has spent so long living alone I worried she might have lost the ability to interact with strangers. And for a good while at least all those around her will be strangers. Till the new memories stick.

    The room filled with the sound of dentures crunching sweet and I made repetitive smalltalk with my Gran for the next hour.

    As I left, the three elderly ladies became four. Joined by a lady who smiles at you before continuing sentences started elsewhere. The lady sat in the corner, Silvia I think, was still reading the first page of her hardback book. I asked her what it was about and she held it up for me to see. The title read ‘Fossils in colour’.

    A passing carer stopped to comment. “That book is older than me. From the 60's I think. The only exam I ever came top in at school was about fossils. Funny the things you remember.”

    I marvelled at the life journey of a woman once fascinated by fossils, now in her 40's working in an old peoples home. I stopped short of the obvious joke. Short one liners work best here.
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