“Things to ask Kate”. I spot the scrap of paper with this heading, on the kitchen table. My 84-year-old mum is dishing up lunch, talking animatedly about “the bloody government doing bugger all” about Ukrainian refugees. “It is so awful,” I reply, picking up the envelope and handing it to her. “Are there some things you want help with, Mum?” “Oh yes,” she replies, standing up again. “Where have I put my glasses?” I glance at the cooker to check the rings are all off and pick up the newspaper cutting she handed me when I arrived that she wants me to read. “Do you know,” she says, “I was writing an email at 5am and all of a sudden it just vanished. Vanished.” She turns to look at me, opening her eyes and hands wide to signal the void it’s fallen into. “I’ll have a look and see if I can find it,” I say, wondering whether to ask if she checked the drafts folder.
Falling into a void is perhaps my mother’s greatest fear. Forgetful and sometimes wandering, she finds the world increasingly confusing, the spectre of dementia hanging over her old age. “That bloody thing,” she complains frequently, pointing to her iPad, “it drives me mad.” Lost emails are often on the list, along with occurrences such as The Crown going back to the beginning and showing her episodes she’s already seen, and variations on what “two dashes and a dot with a wiggly thing above it” means. She often asks where she can buy such-and-such – the ubiquitousness of Amazon having escaped her – how to pay bills or give to a cause she’s read about. The answer is nearly always online. Online. Online. Online. Sometimes I show her, knowing she almost certainly won’t remember. Mostly I do it for her.