“Your son is at Trinity! I went to Trinity . . . I do wish my head was not so muddled . . . I enjoyed it there”.
The battle for lucidity was not so difficult this visit. There seemed a consciousness of threads being lost, a willingness to allow silence, or perhaps just no longer an inclination to try to keep going. Like a pair of actors who have played out a scene on many occasions, the next line of the script provides the necessary prompt for the resumption of the dialogue.
We cover the same territory on each occasion, except this time there was some adaptation. There were new lines, memories triggered by some association.
“He went away to England?” It was one of my lines from previous performances.
“Yes”. The response each time the question was asked; usually the end of a sequence, but, this time, new material.
“That was what we didn’t want to happen. ‘Damn’, I thought.”
Thinking was probably as far as the word went, it was the early-1930s.
To have pressed the question would have crushed the butterfly-like fragility of the conversation. Sometimes names appear, only to dissolve into nothingness as soon as one tries to create something of flesh and blood around the name.
There was laughter today as we went over details of the school. Memories of Saturday evening dances to the music of a gramophone brought smiles.
“It all goes so fast . . . it’s all gone”.
The script is usually complete in about an hour. We drink tea and eat cake and look out at the view.
A brilliant mind trapped in a twilight world where shadows can be substantial, or can be nothing at all; recall of students standing in Front Square, as the campanile tolled the final moments before confrontation with examination papers, was interrupted by pointing at some imagined object in a slate grey January sky.
We make our farewells and I head back into the world of reality; though the ‘Fairy Gold’ of the economic boom is, in retrospect, as much a product of the imagination as things flying through rain clouds above the Dublin mountains.
Walking down the road, I rehearse the script, what new things were there today that I could use next time? Were there clues leading to new corridors? I must look up details of the mailboats and Holyhead trains, hadn’t I said that before? Perhaps there would be something to spark a response. I must watch ‘Goodbye, Mr Chips’ for some ideas.
Realising I was talking to myself, I apologized to the air around.
No-one ever taught us how to deal with dementia; like the conversation, it has been a case of making it up as you go along. There’s not even anyone to ask. It’s alarming, really.