Sally Magnusson is the daughter of celebrated journalist, Mamie Baird, and broadcaster Magnus Magnusson. Her account of her mother's descent into dementia has been widely praisedby Prospect Team / February 19, 2014 / Leave a comment
Magnus and Mamie Magnusson with baby Sally
The below extract from Where Memories Go comes towards the end of this moving memoir when Sally’s once fiercely intellectual mother, Mamie, is rendered unrecognisable by the ravages of her failing mind like a “boat broken free from its moorings”. After their father died in 2007, Sally and her sisters vowed to care for their increasingly incoherent mother at home—a decision which brings many challenges alongside occasional moments of joy. In order to stop Mamie slipping into a painful lethargy, the family keep her in their centre of lives, diverting her mind with music, chatter and old stories.
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It is a measure of my current desperation that I now offer late-night recitals on the electric piano which Topsy, who really can play the thing, has moved into your bedroom from her own place. The last time I made it through a piece of music from beginning to end was Fur Elise at the age of 15. Now I am amazed and gratified to find that my halting stab at a Sonata in C, played at a more funereal pace than Mozart could have dreamed his semiquavers capable of, will calm you. Sometimes you even join in from the pillow, holding the note patiently until I locate some approximation on the keyboard. “That’s nice,” you say, closing your eyes in what looks improbably like bliss, as deaf to the limitations of my musical accomplishments as you always were.
I should also remind myself, Mum, that without entirely meaning to you can still be hilarious company.
On Easter Day there is a clatter at your front door. In hurtle a gang of my children, home for the holiday weekend and keen to spend some time with me. You look vaguely at your three eldest grandchildren sprawled around the room and mutter to me sotto voce, “When did you start taking such an interest in these people?”
“Mum, I’m their mother.”
“Are you really?” you say. “Well, don’t tell anyone.”
When the kids have gone, I take you to sit at the kitchen table while I make the tea.…