Maja came from Spain. There was eau de toilette, talcum powder, and soap in a dramatic red, black, and gold box, proud flamenco dancer in full flight. The soap came wrapped in black tissue: unusually khaki-coloured and very grown-up to a young girl, with a subtle, woody, spicy aroma. It wasn’t always in stock, which made it a treasure to find in any other store; and sometime in the 1980s or 90s it was discontinued in the UK.
Dementia, we are told, attacks short-term memory: “they still remember the past”. Well, only selectively in my mum’s case, and only her own past - mostly her childhood or youth, long before my time. My past - and much of my present, the memories we shared of my lifetime - has gone.
A few weeks ago, she asked me out of the blue if I had a husband. I don’t and never have. I laughed it off at the time. But if she has no idea of something so fundamental about me, how much of me does she now remember?
The bereavements of dementia are many, and some are better known. I have come to realise that this cruel disease has not only robbed mum of much of the life we shared - it has left me alone with my own memories and made me a stranger in my home town.
(* Sad to say, four years on from writing this post that excellent selection of freshly-made cakes has largely disappeared, due to budget cuts at the home - a common scenario in the current climate of the care "industry". See my four-part post, Five-Star Hotel, Five-Star Care?)