I knew this would be the last time. I’d flown home to Wales across a continent to see her. But still I had to break away. A walk with the dog, where we had walked together every summer of my childhood. Through the fields. Up the lane. Past the trees where we picked green hazelnuts. And then the village falling away into the valley.
I got lost, of course, with a small dog too tired to walk. Home, in a village where soon no-one would know me. Perhaps no-one did already. ‘You were my first girl’, she told me. I wasn’t. I held her hand and smiled, and cried.
Was it me she was talking to? I think about it over and over. But the closer I get to the memory, the less clear it becomes.
I picked up the dog and we started back to the house.
When I was a child, we lived about 120 miles from my grandparents and I would spend the summers with them. After they died, in 2010 and 2011, I no longer had a reason to go there. It’s a place I’m intimately familiar with, but at the same time scarcely know.
Drawing my map, I had a lot of detail immediately round the house, but my memory failed as I imagined walking further away. I see a link between this experience of a vivid past and uncertain future, and the dementia that blurred my last visit with my grandmother.