Yesterday my mother didn’t recognise herself in the mirror.
I found her smiling and nodding politely at her reflection. Then she whispered conspiratorially, ‘Who is that woman?’, as if we were at a drinks party and she had simply forgotten the name of an acquaintance across the room.
Through the looking glass, I look back.
Back to my mother’s mother who also had Alzheimer’s. As a child I was immensely amused, and then strangely frightened, when she would grab me with her bony hands and demand to know who the lady in the mirror was. ‘She keeps staring at me!’. Very quickly her reflection began to torment her. Why wouldn’t the woman say hello? Why was she so rude and arrogant, refusing to answer any questions? Who did she think she was?
Who did she think she was?
Back through the looking glass I stand next to my mother and side-by-side we look at our faces together. So similar. ‘You look just like your mother!’. Who doesn’t know what she looks like anymore. So I remind her – that’s you! Oh yes, so it is, she laughs. She has not taken against herself yet.
A reverse Dorian Grey. The lady in the mirror gets older, while she feels younger. Fading memory erasing old age, middle age, parenthood, marriage, travel and leaving only youth. She just cannot believe the lady staring back at her is her. But she’s so old! I am not that old! I am only 15, or perhaps 20… maybe more.
Cover all the mirrors. Stop all the clocks. Time is reversing.
I stare hard at my refection. Scrutinising my features. Will I ever not know myself? But the harder I stare the more my features recede, and I see my mother staring back at me. But not really staring anymore. Sometimes behind her eyes the intention is gone, she is simply looking. Avoiding my gaze.
I see us all in three dimensions. Looking through the window at the lady outside, checking her reflection in the glass. She cannot see us. We look straight into her eyes. She doesn’t recognise us.