She hated anybody telling lies Rosaleen

The Procession of the League (detail). Francois Bunel the Younger, c.1590 © National Gallery of Ireland

My beautiful, wonderful mother developed Alzheimer’s around 6 years ago: just before her husband – my father – passed away. Since her diagnosis, she has drifted slowly into herself day-by-day, and has become very quiet. 

In the early stages, Mum was still herself, but her short-term memory was affected. She was always a very happy, outgoing person. She always believed in telling the truth: she hated anybody telling lies. One Sunday evening, my two daughters (who were aged 10 and 12 at the time) and I went to visit Mum at her home. As always, Mum was delighted to see us. She kept looking strangely at the girls; then asked, “Who are these two girls?” I knew by her face she didn’t recognize them. I told her that they were my daughters and she was their grandmother. Mum accused me of telling lies, saying that I had no children. She remembered me as her daughter who was not married.

Mum was visibly upset. I asked her what was wrong; why was she so upset? She told me that she was annoyed with me for having stolen the children. She said their mother would be out looking for them: I should leave them back home. I kept trying to explain to her that I wouldn’t steal children and that they were my girls. Mum would not believe me, and was getting more and more upset. To calm her down, I told her that I was babysitting the girls and I would leave them home later that evening. 

She was content with that, but kept telling the girls not to worry or cry because they would be home with their mum soon. I always remember this evening as an upsetting marker of the Alzheimer’s progressing to a new stage.