I have sat on this post for some time now. It is about puppies, shortbread and the recovery of love. At first I thought it was a continuation of my previous post about shortbread and my mother’s dementia; how shortbread defined her and how I used it to assess her progress into forgetfulness. It has a back story that diverted it from that post and without the back story it made no sense.
Perhaps I have a book. A book about my journey through my mother’s dementia. So much of it is already written. Her life as a housewife and mother, the cookbook we made to help her remember in the early stages of her decline, and my story about how she approached me to help her. Many of her memories are imbedded in my stories and she is still just half way there …
After the chapter on shortbread comes a dark chapter about how she stopped loving me. How we argued one day and she turned against me. I kept notes. That chapter will be hard to write but its there.
Then comes this chapter … Drowning in shortbread.
My daughter and I bought a Gordon Setter just over two years ago. We named her Pippa. I call her Pipstar and my daughter calls her Pippy. We were always going to have a litter of puppies with her. Mum and Dad bred Labrador puppies when we were young and the experience of raising puppies is one I remembered with great joy. I wanted my family to be part of this memory. We endured four cycles, then I sat my dog breeder test and we registered a kennel name. Something very Scottish, Rathairsair, a small island off the coast of Scotland just near Skye, where mum’s family came from.
After it was confirmed that she was having a litter of puppies the family members warned me not to tell nana. She already had it in for me they said and I could do no wrong. So I kept it from her. Of course she found out and she phoned. She said she couldn’t do anything to help but could she perhaps make a batch of shortbread for me. “That’s one thing I can still do”.
“How are the puppies?” She calls daily. She and dad visit me and the puppies. I sneak a pup into the car and take it up to see her.
She remembers happy times. My sister reminds me of how she used to bring three puppies in each morning and put one in each of our beds for a morning cuddle. I had forgotten but the memory must have lingered: I still give Pipstar a morning cuddle whilst I have a cuppa in bed before taking her for a walk.
“I can make a batch of shortbread. Dad and I can get a taxi to your place and help you with them”.
I am restored. Now she tells everyone how much I like her shortbread. I have five containers of shortbread. I eat a piece every day, I give as much away as I can and I feed a piece or two to Pipstar.
Mum’s shortbread is still delicious. Sometimes it is slightly over cooked and the pieces lack the uniformity they once had, but apart from that I can’t fault it.
Tomorrow she is coming here for the day. She says she can help me with the puppies. Dad can escape from her constant forgetting and go with friends to chop wood at my sister’s farm. At last I can help her albeit while she thinks she is helping me.
The next chapter will inevitably be about her increasingly confused muddled and forgetful state. I will fill the book with recipes and tips for remembering. How mum measures all the ingredients into separate bowls now and writes a note: 180gms flour, 1 cup sugar, and places it in the bowls with the matching ingredient – a mise en place for dementia sufferers – and how she calls me now to ask which tin for which recipe.
The puppies are hard work, but they have rewarded me well.