She spooned sugar into her tea for the fifth time, and I let her. She wasn’t going to drink it; by the time she finished swirling the granules around the amber concoction and put it aside to cool, the cup would be long forgotten.
“Would you be a dear and make me a cuppa?,” she would ask me soon.
We wasted a lot of tea bags that way. A lot of tea, sugar, water, electricity from the kettle boiling over and over again and time. I could have used the old bag and she wouldn’t have known the difference, but that just wasn’t the kind of thing I did.
Dementia was a bitch. Funny, considering it had the opposite effect on this woman who had once upon a time given birth to my husband. Now that she no longer knew who I was most of the time, that she lived only in a world of memories (some real, some imagined, and some that were scenes from old movies, but who had the heart to tell her) she no longer remembered to hate me.
We got on quite splendidly, in fact. In my new role as ‘that nice lady’ who looked after her and let her have a sip of gin after dinner, we shared a lot of confidences. She told me of about her first love, a guy called Danny who was famous because he owned a motorcycle before people did such things; about the time she was ten and she stole a box of chocolates from the grocer because another girl at school told her she wouldn’t have the guts; about the way she had danced with an overly touchy-feely man called Jimmy at a 1959 charity dance and the prize ribbon she had hidden from her mother who thought dancing was the work of the devil. She told me about the way she cried when she found out she was pregnant because she was scared out of her wits and about the way her heart had ripped to pieces the day her father had died. Of course there was also the time she’d stepped foot in Tara for the first time, the most majestic mansion in the South. Who knew how likeable a person could be when they stopped trying to be perfect.
“Would you be a darling and make me a cuppa?,” she asked me.
I got up and retrieved the cold, sugary cup from the side of the sofa and set about pouring the forgotten contents down the sink.
What a waste, I thought.