Two conversations with my (step-)grandmother (E), who has vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s.
E: When did I stop being related to you?
H (my mother): I don’t think you have.
E: (angrily) Well, this is something that’s happened and I need to know how long it will last.
Me: I don’t think you can stop being connected to people you are linked to by marriage or blood.
E: So I am responsible for L [my cousin]’s children?
Me: I think one is only legally responsible for one’s own children.
H: It’s academic as L has no children.
E: (still moodily) So if you say it’s academic it’s something that doesn’t matter?
Me: I think academic means it doesn’t apply in the specific case.
E: So if I went walking in D [nearest town] with no clothes on, the university would arrest me?
E: These developments in new technology are amazing.
E: For instance, whom would you ring up to find out if I were dead.
H: It would depend on the circumstances of your death.
E: In hospital, I expect.
H: I expect the hospital would ring me up.
E: The funeral would be difficult.
H: Well, you said yesterday you didn’t want a funeral – that you’d rather be cremated, because of the worms.
H: And you weren’t keen to donate your body to medical science.
E: No, I’ve had enough to do with medical students.
H: I might donate my brain for medical research. Though you think of all the metaphysics [sic] who believed you had to stay in one piece.
Me: Like Stanley Spencer’s pictures of the Resurrection.
E: So you’ll ring up Stanley Spencer to find out if I’m dead?