Anyone remember the way the eponymous hero in Vernon God Little likened a mother’s ability to emotionally wound her child as receiving a small stab in the back? (Whatever happened to DBC Pierre after that great literary début?)
My mother’s dementia seems to have increased her accuracy at knife-throwing. Or perhaps I’ve just slowed down as a moving target? My guilt complex, nurtured, I now realise, by Myra’s parenting style, has grown unfeasibly large and encompasses everything from apartheid to climate change. I’m a sitting duck for emotional blackmail.
— You’re always too busy.
— You’re always in such a rush.
Reasoning with her doesn’t help. I switch to remonstrating.
— Don't you dare scold your mother!
She balls her fists and waves one at me, saying she’d like to smash it into my face. I'm shocked. I know how irritating criticism from one's child is, but her reaction is uncharacteristic and disproportionate. I withdraw, popping in only briefly for errand-duty in the days that follow.
She doesn’t say sorry and nor do I. While I stand at the door she bumbles around her immaculately organised flatlet trying to find the chore lists she’s drawn up for me.
They are lost amid her coping notes:
— Every time you walk through that door I start feeling confused.
(A knife, but just a glancing blow).
— I’m sorry, we say simultaneously.