On the day that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America

by Mary Paterson

On the day that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America, I went to visit my mother in law. Her husband (my father in law) had just been rushed to hospital, and she kept

remembering.

My parents in law live in an apartment inside a care home which is very warm, and the TV is always on. On the day that Donlad Trump was elected President of the United States of America, the TV kept showing the same clip, over and over, of him standing at a podium, and making this

gesture

with his hands. My mother in law was crying, because she kept remembering that her husband wasn’t there, that he had been taken away that morning by the paramedics. ‘That man thinks he’s the president of the United States,’ I uttered, under my breath, at the TV.

And she laughed.

‘That man thinks he’s the President of the United States!‘

I said it again, for effect. And we both laughed. We both carried on laughing. We carried on laughing until she remembered about her husband and the paramedics and the ambulance, and then she cried.

So I said, ‘That man thinks he’s President of the United States.’

And that’s how I spent the day that Donald Trump got elected. Laughing and crying, laughing and crying, holding my mother in law’s fragile hand.

*

I’ve told this anecdote loads of times. I keep on telling it. There’s something I want to get from it.

I’m not sure what. I’m not sure what it is.

There’s something I want to distil from it, like whisky. Like the words can filter something out. I don’t know what it is. I haven’t got there yet.

*

I’ve learnt that if you start talking about Alzheimer’s, quite often, people say, ‘I’ll kill myself if that ever happens to me.’

Dementia is a fate worse than death. A person with dementia is someone who

ought to be dead by now.

‘I’ll kill myself it that ever happens to me.’

Who is this me that that things are happening to?

*

On the day that Donald Trump was elected president of the United States of America, I went to visit my mother in law.

*

Except she’s not really my mother in law, because I’m not married to her son. She is, technically speaking, my boyfriend’s mother. And I only say ‘boyfriend’ because I think it makes us sound young. Until I was about thirty I used to call him my partner, because in those days I was trying to sound mature. She’s my boyfriend’s mother, and so, as the accountant told us recently, in the eyes of the law we have

nothing

in common. The law does not legislate for love, and nor should it. Even the term ‘mother in law’ is wrong, although it’s the best I can do. You’re not meant to love your mother in law. You’re not meant to miss her.

*

I heard an extract on the radio from Wendy Mitchell’s memoir about living with dementia. She says that memories are like a brick wall. All the ones at the top are crumbling. But the ones at the bottom are still there. Holding everything up.

*

On the day that Donald Trump was elected president of the United States of America, I went to visit my mother in law. The care home manager told me that she was

distressed.

Her husband had been rushed to hospital that morning and that’s where my boyfriend was, with his father, her husband, my father in law – not really in law, but you know what I mean. There had been a fatal tram crash in south London on the same day, so the hospital was backed up. They couldn’t see my father in law for hours.

Back in the apartment, I sat in his chair and held her hand. We watched TV. Every time Donald Trump came on we laughed and laughed and laughed, until we remembered. And then we began to cry.

*

Every time I tell the story, I lose some of it. I can’t have been sitting in my father in law’s chair. I never do. And as for my mother in law, I can’t really remember who she was. When I picture her I picture her as I saw her a couple of days ago. But she’s changed. Like a child, the changes are gradual but they coalesce, rapidly. When our son started school my boyfriend cried for the baby our son would no longer be. We miss him then. We love him now.

*

On the day that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America I switched off the notifications on my phone because I couldn’t bear the updates from social media and Whatsapp and the news, the outpouring of pithy anger, of tweeted despair, of words flashing on my screen and describing how the world had gone to shit. I went to see my mother in law. I told her about Donald Trump and she just laughed. She laughed until she cried.

*

I keep telling the anecodote. There’s something I want to mine from it, like a jewel. I want to hold it close to me, hard and brittle and precious. A few years ago she gave me her mother’s diamond engagement ring. I often wonder if that was a sign. In the eyes of the law, we have nothing in common.

She is not my mother in law.

She is not my mother.

She is not my friend.

This is not my story.

This is not my grief.

This is not my place to say.

*

People say it’s better when they get to the stage that they don’t know.

For example, people say it’s better when they get to the stage that they don’t know their husband has been pulled out of bed by two burly paramedics, and rushed to hospital in the back of a wailing van.

For example, people say it’s better when they get to the stage that they don’t know that Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States of America.

*

She was barely 60 when she was diagnosed. The diagnostic tests include the question: can you spell the word WORLD backwards? Only when you stop getting the

WORLD

backwards, do you have Alzheimer’s Disease.

*

On the day that Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America, I went to visit my mother in law. We held hands. I told her: Donald Trump thinks he is President of the United States of America.

 

She

has a very infectious laugh.

 

 

 

 

 


Mary Paterson is one of the co-editors of Something Other.

 

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