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Three generations of women

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Sarah and Poppy ReedSarah:
Mum.
Sitting.
When I think about Mum I see her in a few different places, but somehow all at the same time. In all of the mental snapshots, she is seated.

I see her sitting in the corner of her beloved swing seat in the garden in the sunshine, mending socks or suchlike. She's not swinging on it, but she'd never stop anyone else swinging on it if they wanted to, unlike my Gran did when she came to stay. Planting her Size 4 laced and polished clod-hoppered feet firmly on the ground, she would flex her leg muscles, (concealed behind thick putty-brown Lisle stockings, worn all year round regardless of the weather), to keep the seat stationery.

As mischievous children we'd jump on the other end, determined to get it moving back and forth despite her best efforts. Now I see it was her game, too. She was less than 150 cms tall, my Gran, and lived to be 99, missing her telegram by just one month.

Then I see Mum in the kitchen, sitting on the edge of the kitchen table, one foot on a chair, colander resting on her pinny between her knees, shucking peas or topping gooseberries from the garden.

I see her sitting at her Singer sewing machine making things like clothes for us, or curtains or somesuch.

I see her sitting on "her" chair by the fire, knitting, or sitting at her desk writing a letter to some distant family member.

Seated maybe, but always, always busy.

Then I see her sitting in the different lounges in the three care homes she lived in once her dementia got too much for my dad. All the chairs nearly identical. And her with little to do, but watch and wait.

Poppy:
Mum.
Sitting.
When I think about Mum I, too, see her in a few different places.

She is not always sitting. She is a dynamic and fiery woman.

But in this particular memory - the memory in which my brain strongly relates my Mum, to her Mum - she is sitting...

Sitting at a table in what was our dining room, framed by piles of paper and books. I remember this occasion, because she had a different energy about her. I wasn't sure about what had caught her attention so intently and when she would talk about her den of research was all about, I still didn't much understand. I knew it had to do with Grandma and with dementia. But the word meant very little to me back then other than as a word used to describe forgetfulness.

Mum was emotionally driven by something, which led to her being completely immersed in her 'work'. My Mum's Mum had become my Mum's focus.

Mum and Grandma. Sitting.
Sitting in one of the lounges of one of the care homes where my Grandma lived. Side-by-side. On cold, pink washable 'fabric' armchairs. My grandmother always in pretty outfits my Mum had bought her from M&S.; I didn't ever ask, but I think it was important to my grandmother that she was in neat, floral, ladylike outfits. This was the woman who taught my Mum how to make her own clothes. In my mind's eye they are flicking through a life story book of photographs of my grandmother that Mum made for her. There's one of Grandma in a short tutu holding a dance pose when she was much younger. She looks happy in the photo.

Sometimes she looks happy now. She might smile, and giggle at something my Mum says, "Oh, dear, hahahaha!".

My Mum is enthusiastic and I can see that she is making it her responsibility to gently coax my Grandma out of her involuntary inward gazing.

And really, that's what she has been doing ever since.

Grandma passed away. But Mum's piles of research papers and books remain. She continues to make it her responsibility to understand dementia and help others engage and communicate with those who have it.

Including me.

...Many Happy Returns, for Generations.
Three generations, in our family's case.

Sarah Reed, Many Happy Returns - http://www.manyhappyreturns.org

Tags: daughters and mothers, family, relationships Written 2014-09-29

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