Chapter Twenty Two
Mum is having a really hard time with the baby, she’s still very sick and she gets frightened and cries a lot because she doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. Yesterday, she was heartbroken because she thought she was still a teenager living at home, and that her dad would go berserk when he found out about the baby. She said it would bring such shame on the family. Having the dementia stops her from being happy about the baby and that’s really sad.
She went to the doctors yesterday and they said that they want to maintain the pregnancy as long as possible. Dad told them that it’s getting really hard for her and putting a big strain on us all. They’ve decided to take her in two weeks early, to have a caesarean. The doctors don’t think she’d be able to cope with going through labour. I don’t think she’ll be able to cope with a caesarean; they are going to cut her wide open. How gross is that? But she will be asleep. Do you know that most women who have their bellies’ cut open are wide awake? I can’t believe that and I’m glad that they’re going to put Mum to sleep. They said that if things get any worse, they may even bring it forward a little bit more. Isn’t that exciting? And it will be best for Mum, too. Dad’s worried that with not going through labour, Mum won’t be able to associate the baby as being hers, and the doctor told him that she probably won’t, either way, and it’s best to keep the trauma down as much as possible. Mum probably won’t remember that she’s even had a baby, that’s shocking.
I can’t wait for him to come. Dad wants to call him Christopher. Mum said that Christopher’s a lovely name, and then forgot about it two minutes later. So it’s up to me and Dad to pick his name. As long as I don’t go for anything too crazy, like Axle Tomahawk, or Jedi Vader, I know I can make him go for what I want to call him. I might have to play the upset daughter a bit and lay on a few waterworks, so that he knows that it’s really important to me to name my little brother. When he grows up, I want to tell him that I picked his name. It’s such a responsibility to pick the right name. Dad says to wait until he’s here and then see what suits him, but that’s no good, I want him to have a name to come into. I’ve gone off Logan and there are too many Ben’s, and anyway, I don’t like Benjamin. I did like Connor, but Dad says that he’ll get called Connie, and that’s no good for a boy. Maybe Aaron or Adam, would be good.
I walked up our street tonight, after getting off the bus and mum was outside in the road. She was dressed, thank Goodness. She even had her coat on. Miss Sterling came running up to me on her little old stick legs, like she’d never had so much excitement in her life.
‘Oh my dear, thank God you’ve come home. It’s your Mum, my dear; I don’t think she’s very well. You’d better come and see if you can calm her down.’
Some of the neighbours already know about Mum, but the ones further down the road, like Nosy Beak Miss Sterling, don’t. Mum doesn’t want everybody to know and neither do I, but it’ll be all over town now that Miss Sterling knows. Frank and Molly Jones from next door know. Dad and Frank sat in our garden drinking cans of beer last week and Dad told him all about it. And then he saw all about it for himself when Mum had one of her, how-can-I-possibly-be-pregnant, meltdowns. Dad got drunk and Molly promised to keep an eye out for anything unusual and to look out for Mum if she sees her in the garden. She said to put her on the sitting rota, which was nice of her. She said that she can’t do much but she’ll do a couple of hours a week. She must have been out today. Dad should have been with her. I had no idea where he was and it was scary.
I could hear what Mum was shouting now and it broke my heart. She had this can of cat food and a fork and she was rattling the fork in the can and shouting Kali’s name at the top of her voice. Mrs Backhouse came out of her door to see what all the shouting was about and Mum went over to her.
‘Hello love, you haven’t seen Kali, have you? You know my little dog? I can’t find her anywhere. I’m really worried about her. She’s escaped and I’m frightened that she’ll get run over.’ Everybody on the street knows that she died last year. They all loved her, even Miss Sterling used to bend down and pet her when I took Kali for a walk. Mum was crying now and her hair was all wild and flying all over the place. I ran up and she turned towards me. ‘Hello, love, I don’t suppose you’ve seen a little black terrier running around have you? She’s about this big.’ She bent down to indicate how big Kali was and it was obvious that she didn’t have a clue who I am. Miss Sterling had caught up with us and heard it all, too. She was tutting and shaking her head, the way old ladies do when they’re shocked about something, and Mrs Backhouse had her mouth open and her eyes were really wide. And then she had this look of pity on her face and I wanted to smack her in the mouth. This isn’t Eastenders, this is real life. It’s my life and my Mum’s life, it stinks but there’s nothing that we can do about it. My phone was ringing, but I ignored it. It would only be Sal asking if I wanted to go round hers tonight. See what I mean, normal stuff, like other kids my age do, but I can’t because I have to look after Mum.
I put my arm around her shoulders to lead her away. ‘It’s okay,’ I told the neighbours, ‘she’s all right. She just got a bit mixed up about stuff, that’s all.’ They were looking at each other now and I could see that they couldn’t wait to gossip about it. ‘Mum, it’s me, Kate. Come on, let’s get you inside. ‘Kate,’ she beamed, with the tears still wet on her cheeks, ‘what are you doing home so early? Look at you all tall and beautiful. I was just telling Mrs—I was just saying to this lady here, how much you’ve grown. I said you’ll be left school and at university next and it was only yesterday you were—Oh look the bus is coming, I’ve been on a bus and the driver was ever so nice, dishy too—where’s your father, dear?’
All the time that she’d been talking I was leading her down the road and into our gate. ‘That’s what I want to know, Mum, he should be with you.’ And that’s when I saw that the front door was locked. ‘Oh mum, please say that you’ve got a key.’ I knew that she hadn’t and I didn’t have one because Mum said I wasn’t old enough, or responsible enough, to have my own key. I’m going to talk to Dad about it. I’m responsible enough to look after her, aren’t I? I was just getting my phone out to ring dad and tell him that we were locked out when a police car pulled up outside the house. Dad had rung them to report Mum missing, again.
I said that Mum was fine. And then I rang Dad to find out where he was and to tell him that the police were here but he didn’t answer his phone because he was already on his way home. I had five missed calls from him and I felt guilty. He must have been in a right state. And then the police got a call on their walkie-talkie. A bus driver had rung in to say that he’d picked up a lady with no money. She seemed very confused so he’d let her off paying, but he didn’t want her getting hurt and thought that he’d better let the police know. He was very kind and hadn’t started the bus up again until he’d seen Mum going into our gate. The police said that he was a good citizen.
When Dad got home, a couple of minutes after the police had arrived, we went inside and the policeman had to write a lot of notes and file a report and he said that it was the second time, in a week, that Mum had gone walkabout. Dad promised them that it wouldn’t happen again, but I don’t think they believed him. As they were going out of the door the policeman squeezed Dad’s shoulder and that made me want to cry because it was proper sympathy, not like the nosy neighbours who just want to talk about us.
I made coffee and sandwiches. Mum was hungry and ate two big ham and lettuce sandwiches and then she asked if there was any pudding. I gave her the biscuit barrel and she scoffed loads before Dad took it off her. And then she threw up in the kitchen sink because she didn’t have time to get to the toilet.
While Mum and I ate, Dad told me what had happened. He said that his stomach was still churning and that he couldn’t eat a thing. They’d been doing the weekly shop in Asda. Dad said that he only turned his back on her to look at something and when he looked back, she’d gone. He said that he wasn’t really worried; he figured that he’d find her in one of the aisles somewhere. I told him that’s what had happened to us when we went shopping. I asked him if he looked in the toy aisle first. I told him that that’s where she likes to go. I felt like we were equals in this, not just father and daughter. I know stuff that he doesn’t and I can tell him. After he’d wasted five minutes running around the store, he was scared stiff. He told the security men that she was missing and they helped to look for her and they closed the main automatic doors, leaving only a single door at the side for people to get out of. They put one man at that door in case Mum tried to leave. Some of the floor staff joined in the search for her after Dad described what she looked like.
It’s a good job the security men didn’t catch her because, when I went to hang up her coat, I noticed that it was heavy. I found five tubes of Smarties in one pocket, and three Crunchie’s in the other. I can’t believe that my own mother’s a shoplifter. I showed them to Dad and he started laughing. He said, ‘Can you imagine if she’d got caught?’ I could imagine it, only too well and I really didn’t see what was funny about it. Sometimes I feel like the grown up around here.
Tonight, Mum was sleeping on the couch and Dad asked if I’d be all right with her while he just nipped the stolen goods back to Asda. He was going to leave it until tomorrow, but if they’d checked the security cameras and saw what she’d done, there’d be more trouble. I was nervous being left with Mum, but she didn’t wake up and Dad was only gone for ten minutes. He said that they were very good about it, but he said that the staff won’t forget and will be watching us like hawks in future. Dad says we’ll shop at Tesco next week, even if it is an extra three miles.
The other day Dad had to go into work. Aunty Linda stayed with Mum. The Post Office staff had laid on a kind of party for him. But it was only a glass of champagne and some speeches and boring stuff like that, so I didn’t miss anything good. They said that Dad had been a hard worker for nearly twenty-five years and they gave him a watch. That was nice, but what was even better was that they’d had a whip round and they presented Dad with a cheque for twelve hundred pounds. They said it was for us to have a family holiday. I’m a bit mad because he knows how much I want to go to Disney World Florida, but Dad said that he couldn’t accept it because, with the baby coming, on top of the Dementia, we can’t go on holiday at the moment. Mum has to have as steady a routine as possible.
Dad tried to give the money back, but they told him to keep it and put it towards whatever he felt was best. So he said that he would buy baby stuff with it. Everybody gave him a round of applause, and he was dead embarrassed. They told him that, if circumstances ever change, they would give him his job back without question. But Dad said that it was only words. What about the poor bloke that takes over from him, they can’t just chuck him out if Dad decides to go back, can they? And what could possibly change? Do they think that Mum’s going to die, or something? Dad promised me again that it’s not that kind of disease and that Mum’s going to live for a long, long time. Well, as long as she doesn’t keep wandering off like she did today, she will.
My Mum’s a shoplifter. How embarrassing.