Mother is reading about Margaret Mackie, the pensioner, whose version of ‘My Way’ has been in the charts recently. Mrs Mackie has dementia. But it hasn’t stopped her giving Ed Sheeran, James Blunt and Stormzy a run for their royalties while raising awareness of dementia.
‘Good for her. You can’t beat old-fashioned pluck. You don’t see enough of it these days,’ she says, holding up the newspaper as evidence.
Mother admires Pluck. It became an endangered species in the UK after its habitat was destroyed by the Swinging Sixties and the sexual revolution. It is now as rare as a Tory Remainer and seldom found except in people over the age of sixty-five. Mother has it in spades. Sometimes, she tells me, it’s the only thing which gets her out of her bed in the morning.
‘It proves you shouldn’t write us oldies off.’
‘Nobody writes you off, Granny,’ says my Daughter gently.
‘He does,’ she says pointing at me. ‘Won’t even help me with the TV without a putting a condescending smirk on his face.’
I would like to refute this. But the truth is I have had to explain to her how to use the TV remote controls four times this week and my patience may have frayed. The last time was to help her watch ‘Judge Rinder’, a TV programme which I think is a threat to the public’s confidence in our justice system and whose host may one day win a Nobel Prize in Smugness. In the circumstances, was it really so wrong for me to let slip my frustration? Surely, the Judge himself would urge Mother to be more lenient?
Instead of trying to justify my tender, but inept condescension, I switch the conversation back to brave Margaret Mackie.
‘‘My Way’ is the most popular song at funerals. Do you think she will play Sinatra’s version at her funeral or her own?’
‘Jesus wept,’ says my wife.
I have started digging a different hole for myself. Mother revolts whenever funerals are mentioned. Luckily, my son, who always sings in the bathroom and sometimes in school musicals, pipes up.
‘How about we write a musical about Granny’s life?’
‘What would we call it?’ asks my wife, supporting her little chick’s creative twitch.
‘The Long Goodbye,’ says Mother, darkly.
‘That’s a movie not a musical,’ says my son, who wants to stay focused on his idea.
‘It could be both,’ I say.
I have my open mouth and smiley eyes emoji face on as I say this. I hope by supporting both of their suggestions I can take a place at the constructive centre of this family debate rather than its outer ring, which is where I normally am.
‘Why don’t we start with one single song like Mrs. Mackie and then go from there? A whole musical will take a long time to do,’ suggests my daughter, demonstrating her mother’s pragmatism.
‘That’s very sensible. Squeeze every drop out of me while as you can. There are no guarantees that I’ll be around if we attempt anything more long term,’ says Mother, determined not to let go of her grump, even with the beloved grandchildren.
Mrs Mackie would admire her pluck for not giving up the fight.