Nan

A poem exploring how vascular dementia ravages the mind and the effect it has on those forced to witness the decline of their loved ones.

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Nan loved doing jigsaws,
and often we’d retire to the living room
and sit cross-legged on the floor,
beside the nearly snoring fire.
Ignoring the TV
(perpetually blaring
for poor, deaf Grandad,
who’d sit there staring)
we’d pick up pieces,
and begin preparing.

We’d start with corners,
four of those,
and build between them
four straight rows,
for, like a piece of perfect prose,
or unpicked, part red, part pink rose,
the edges keep the beauty there enclosed.
Where the other shapes should go,
we’re yet to know,
so carefully we sort
the reds,
the greens,
the blues,
the yellows,
Into neat piles:
purple tiles to my right,
and to my left, the white.

Then, one day,
catastrophe came,
’cause all Nan’s tiles
looked the same.
She went from seeing
the world in technicolor,
to just one shade of grey.

Here’s a fun fact for you:
the world’s hardest jigsaw
is thousands of shapes
all the same shade of blue,
but completing it
would be less of an adventure
than piecing together the mind
of someone with vascular dementia.
The sign on the box
read ‘for ages three years and upwards’
but Nan was going three years backwards
every single day,
and before long,
she was three years too young to play.

I mean, Nan’s okay:
she doesn’t remember
the unfinished jigsaw,
or the long nights spent
cross-legged on the floor.
She doesn’t remember my name,
written neatly, in gold ink,
on every birthday and Christmas gift.
I think I see, sometimes,
a moment’s recognition;
an orange flicker in the black coals,
but it’s fleeting – the fire soon burns cold,
and I’m confined to reside,
safely in the beautiful
centre of her mind.

I wish I could find the missing parts,
because nowadays,
it’s like the puzzle’s only just been started,
or being slowly disassembled,
and I tremble when I realize,
that she resembles a child,
not blind, but not seeing life through her eyes,
like she’s looking through a kaleidoscope
that only shows white.
I realize that, for a while now
only her four corners have remained,
and I’m left to guess
which pictures still exist,
within her brain.

Cal's performance poetry is laced with witty observations of banality and infusions of pop-culture. Spoken-word for the everyday man.

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