A several weeks ago it was my Nana’s 86th birthday. My sister was lucky enough to call early in the morning catching Nana at her best to wish her Happy Birthday. Daughter Number Two and I arrived after lunch and although it was a pleasant enough visit I was still thrown a couple of times.
Punch to the guts number one came shortly after our arrival. Daughter Number Two ran into to Nana’s room, and spying two photo’s of Daughter Number One said excitedly ‘There’s my Sister! There’s my Sister.’ Nana remarked ‘Oh, she knows her does she?’ To which I replied ‘yes’. Nana continued ‘Where is she now?’ As I reeled from the emotional body blow she followed with ‘Did she die?’ in a tone of voice appropriate to enquiring if someone had moved house. Don’t get me wrong, this is far preferrable to me than the complete shock and raw grief that was her reaction last time we had this conversation, but still surreal, as was the lack of her reaction when I responded ‘Yes Nana, she died.’
My second moment of pause came when Nana lifted her shirt, flashed me her bra and said ‘I’ve got a bra on today!’ Thank heavens for that thought I as I struggled for the appropriate response. ‘Yes, you do.’ I managed before she continued, still with her shirt bunched around her neck ‘Of course I couldn’t have worn one if it had been raining.’ As I tried to make sense of Nana’s looking-glass world a nurse came in and said to Nana ‘Oh, you’re not flashing those again are you?’ Again? My Nana has done this before? My Nana ? Oh no.
Lastly after giving Nana her birthday gift, which was a framed portrait of myself and my children, Daughter Number Two was pointing to everyone in the photo and calling them by name. When she said ‘That’s Mummy!’ Nana said ‘You know, when I opened that I thought that was me in the photo.’ Which went a long way to explaining why she gasps in horror and refuses to look at recent photo’s of herself when I bring them to her. She does not recognise her older self.
Sometimes I understand how she feels. As much as I love and care for the Nana I have now I still miss the Nana she used to be.