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Thursday 8 December 2016

'I'm not sure my mother knows me anymore'

Published 06/03/2016 | 02:30

Modern life has been so hijacked by commercial interests that we now endure a not-so-merry-go-round of relentless red letter days - each one presented as an absolute imperative that cannot be ignored.

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Now Mother's Day is here. But while we may "bah humbug" some over-hyped holidays, most of us won't turn a blind eye to this particular tradition.

Which is why mothers all around this country town today are being mollycoddled - or at least made to grin and bear the somewhat dubious pleasure of breakfast in bed, courtesy of their amateur chef children.

Which may make it necessary to treat those same mothers to lunch or dinner in rural restaurants and hotels that will be delighted to make up for those earlier burnt offerings.

Meanwhile, former city slickers such as yours truly, will have to get on their bikes (or rather, get in their bangers) and head back to the big smoke to do likewise.

I always bring flowers whenever I visit, because I know my mother loves them - though she no longer tells me so. Just as she won't understand why I've brought an extra big bouquet today. For my mother has frontal lobe dementia.

Her decline was slow and almost imperceptible, but in hindsight there were signs - like the way she started repeating the end of sentences. Perhaps it was harder to detect because my mother was always shy and introverted. Though as a singer who performed in the chorus of operas at the Gaiety Theatre and at Feis Ceoils around the country, she also loved the limelight.

But, gradually, it became clear that something was seriously wrong. The various vile dementias have distinct features. Frontal lobe is characterised by a lack of emotion and loss of empathy ­- meaning you could tell my mother that you had just been in a car crash and she wouldn't react.

Most likely, the dementia was triggered by my younger brother's sudden death. Of course, losing a child doesn't at all necessarily lead to losing your mind, but trauma seems to lie behind many incidences of this devastating disease.

I'm not sure she recognises me anymore.

Sometimes she says she loves me - but the black humour that accompanies such tragedies means she is inclined to tell complete strangers on the street that same good news. She seems happy to see me - but not for long, preferring photographs of us when we were young children.

But there is another photograph that my mother holds dear, of another precious lost child called Madeline McCann. So maybe dementia has not entirely conquered her, at least when it comes to feeling for another mourning mother.

Mother's Day occurs just once a year, but a mother loves as long as she lives. And even when a child is gone, that love is not.

Sunday Independent

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