Is there a correlation? A month before the exhibition opening my mum finally lost the map of her house, even when stood in the kitchen surrounded by ‘white goods’ there is nothing there she recognises. I say “by the sink mum” she looks around and turns toward the door, lost. As with the map so with words, lost and found, out for a walk she turns to me and says “I’ve put Mr Toad in my pocket to keep my hands warm”. Two minutes before we’d passed and commented on a boat called “Mr Toad” and in that moment when she reached into her mind for the word ‘hands’, ‘Mr Toad’ popped out instead. It happens a lot and I try not to laugh knowing how frustrating it is for her that – song lines and times-tables apart – she’s losing her grip on vocabulary.
And as her facility with words slips, I grasp a tighter hold on mine; never have I written so much for a project, taking solace in shaping a sentence first this way, now that, changing tenses because I can. Mum lives in the moment out of necessity, there’s so little past or future to take her bearings from.So I cling to maps, grasp for more, plan journeys to: Phoenix House in Ireland, Cambridge Uni Archives, to Paris, back to Rotterdam City Archives and fool myself it’s all in the name of research, nothing to do with sensing and repelling the thought another 10, 20 years and it’ll be me.