They say it started with blackouts. Falling like a felled tree in unforested places. Several times, outside the strip of shops she lives near. The locals all know her, so whenever it happens, they run to my brother’s house and hammer at his door.
‘She’s had a fall.’
And there she was, all four-feet-eleven inches, prone on the ground. In her shopping trolley we find packets of biscuits and a day-old dinner still on the plate, vegetables congealing while we wait for the ambulance.
It’s fortunate that this happened in public. If she’d been at home, it could have been in the shower, or on the stairs. Crumpled on the floor by her single bed, unfound. But it’s not actually lucky at all. She’s done all the right things: worked until retirement, voraciously ploughed through books, squinting at word-search puzzles under her bedside lamp. The stats ensnared her. Ushered her in, and she sat, docile, not comprehending what was happening. Memories became segregated from the parts of her that occasionally still note the time, or recognise a famous face in the newspapers we bring. The neural path between her eyes and brain is now choked with weeds.
The blackouts weren’t the start of it. We know that. There’s a different kind of blackness in her brain, one that started with circular conversations, asking the barest amount of sociable questions. Enough to be polite. As she sat at our kitchen table for dinner over the weeks, I saw her moving away from us. A grainy facsimile of who she used to be. My children are always patient when she asks, ‘Were you in school today?’ Sometimes it’s the sixth time in half an hour. Sometimes it is Saturday.
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