Lately, I’ve had a few of these moments where a smell or the smallest gesture reminds you of a moment in all its accuracy. 

And most of these moments were about my grandmother. The smell of almond powder and orange blossom Cologne water. 

But the most vivid one is about a lemon. She used to wash my hair when I was little until my early teenage years (cause after that I felt I was too “cool” to have my hair washed by my Mamie, aren’t teenagers massive goons?), and after she’d finished, she’d rinse it out with some lukewarm water and the juice of a lemon that she’d poured and mixed together into a plastic water bottle. She said it made it softer and easier to untangle.

 I remember her picking out the seeds from my hair that she couldn’t filter out when squeezing out the juice, and then throwing them down the sink.

 I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house as a small child because my parents worked in far appart places and so you can imagine the logistics of that. 

She’d take me with her everywhere she went : shopping, cooking, doing laundry, picking blackberries to make jam, out on walks on the beach. Sometimes she’d even draw a bath for me in the kitchen sink so she could peel carrots or potatoes and keep an eye on me at the same time. She’d bring me to the swimming pool even though she quite hated it and she used to read me Blue Beard by Charles Perrault to get me to sleep, which I now realise is a particularly weird choice of bedtime story (But I apparently liked it. Freak.),
and she insisted that a weird giant plastic (yet covered in some sort of fur) toy donkey that scared the crap out of me was my best friend. (It wasn’t. It terrified me.) 

 About two years ago, she forgot who I was.

 I remember times where I’d remind myself as Alzheimer’s was moving in slowly that it was going to happen. That one day, I would see her and she would see me and I’d be happy and she’d be confused. I knew cause I read about it, a lot. And I listened to other people, and the way it happened to someone they loved. 

I knew what was coming and I knew it was coming. 

 And so I “decided” on two things.

 I decided I wanted to make the most of my time with her. I was starting to get commissioned pretty often for photography work in different places in the country but I had quite a bit of spare time and I could fit my work around it, so I’d visit as much as I could…
And I decided to document my moments with her, because I wanted to remember and because I wanted to share that with other people. 

Because she was my best friend. 

I have two main ways of dealing with things that are hard to deal with. I make jokes, which means a lot of people don’t tend to think I’m serious about a lot of things, when if we’ve learned something throughout history it’s that “funny people” don’t usually go through the funniest things. And the other way is documenting everything, with my camera, or a pen, or tools. 
Those are my two main coping mechanisms and they are the first things I go to when something utterly overwhelming occurs. 

 These are excerpts of two years with my grandmother while Alzheimer’s was progressing. I’d seen a documentary during that time about a lady with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and during a moment of clarity, she said that when her daughter visited, she didn’t always remember the visit itself, but she was left with a warm and happy feeling, like “she knew something nice had happened” she said. She was left with the lingering feeling of something familiar and safe.

 She passed away a little over a year ago, and yesterday, I smelled a lemon.

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