The Little Girl in the Radiator: Mum Alzheimer's & Me

The Little Girl in the Radiator: Mum Alzheimer's & Me by Martin Slevin

Book: The Little Girl in the Radiator: Mum Alzheimer's & Me by Martin Slevin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Martin Slevin
satisfied belch, he wandered off.
    Mum was still chattering away in the
background to the girls in the salon, about murder and mayhem at home, but I
wasn’t listening, I was more interested in the bloke across the road and my
precious, stolen pint.
    Eventually Tracy completed her work.
Considering the difficulties, she had done a lovely job. Mum looked great.
    ‘I’m going to give you a tip, Barbara,’ she
said to Tracy, as she put on her coat.
    ‘Oh, thank you, Rose,’ said Tracy, smiling.
    I don’t suppose Tracy made much money as a
hairdresser, and tips were always welcome.
    Mum opened her purse, thought about
something for a moment, then leaned closer to Tracy. The hair stylist, sensing
mum was going to say something confidential to her, leaned closer to mum as
well. Their faces were almost touching.
    ‘I want you to be careful with blackheads,’
said mum.
    Tracy stopped
    ‘I see you have a big one on the side of
your nose there,’ whispered mum. ‘Don’t squeeze it or it will leave a mark.’
    Mum nodded confidentially to Tracy, and shut her purse with a snap. She was often very helpful like that with total

The Recurring Drama
    LIKE A GREAT MANY Alzheimer’s patients,
mum had fixed and recurring ideas. Once one of these random thoughts insinuated
itself into her head, you couldn’t shift it with dynamite; now ingrained into
her consciousness, it would keep popping up at inconvenient moments.
Eventually, it would fade away – until the next time.
    I used to imagine these ideas as being like
a person swimming underwater. The surface of the water represented mum’s
consciousness. Every so often, the swimmer had to come up for air. As soon as
the swimmer broke the surface, the idea appeared in mum’s mind and she would
express it to the people around her, or perform some function or action
associated with it. When the swimmer dived back below the surface, the idea was
hidden away again. The time between ‘breaths’ could be weeks, days, hours, or
    One of mum’s most persistent notions was
that of the little girl in the radiator. Mum didn’t seem to think the little
girl was in there all the time; she could go for days without referring to the
radiator at all. Then, suddenly and without warning, the little girl would be
there, and mum would engage with her until the episode played out, before going
back to ignoring the radiator for a while.
    I didn’t know where she got the whole idea
from, but I could cope with it so it didn’t bother me too much. There was
another such notion which was far more inconvenient for me, and it was that she
would feel, from time to time, that someone was breaking in to the house. This
only manifested itself when the sun was going down, and only then for a few
days in a row before it disappeared until the next time. Unfortunately, while
it was there it led her to shut every window and door in the house – even the
internal doors – and lock those that she could. Worst of all, she would press
down the little button – the ‘snip’ – on the internal Yale lock on the front
door, so that the door could not be opened, even with the right key. This
locked me out of the house. During one particular week, I returned from work to
find myself locked out every evening.
    The first time this occurred, it was pouring
with rain.
    ‘Mum!’ I shouted through the letterbox.
‘It’s raining, open the door!’
    ‘There’s no-one here,’ came the reply.
    Only an Alzheimer’s patient would shout
    ‘ You’re there!’ I shouted back
through the letterbox. ‘I just heard you speak!’
    It all went very quiet.
    ‘Mum open the door, it’s tipping down!’
    I could see her moving about in the hallway
through the frosted glass in the front door, but she was making no attempt to
let me in.
    ‘Mum!’ I shouted through the letterbox
again, as the rainwater ran down my neck. ‘Open the door! Please!’
    ‘I can’t!’ shouted back

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