Remote

Dorothy watches television now.

It’s pretty much all she does. She’s not one for sitting in the lounge with the others. We’ve tried to get her involved with the bingo or crafts, but you could tell all she wanted was to be back in her room flipping between the channels.

When she first came here, the TV was on a bracket, hanging from the wall. She didn’t like that, said it craned her neck and meant she had to call someone if she wanted to change the channel. She likes to change the channel. So we moved the TV down onto a chest of drawers then swapped it with Mr Moore’s when he left us, gave Dorothy one with a remote so she could do what she wanted. Never seen her smile as much as the day we gave her the remote. She sat there and pushed the buttons – up through the channels and back down, even through the ones with snow on them. Five minutes every channel then on to the next.

Dr Carter saw her a couple of weeks ago. He told Mrs Grey – who told us – that he’s worried about how much television Dorothy watches. We tell Mrs Grey that it makes her happy and surely one happy resident is better than the usual load of moaning. Mrs Grey shrugs when we say things like that, and you can tell she’s wondering if any of the care staff really care. We do, we say, but it’s a lot easier to care about the quiet ones.

Anyway, Dorothy watches television. She still changes channel all the time – slower now, every fifteen minutes or so – so we don’t sit with her to watch because we know we’ll never see the end of a show. You ask her what she’s watching and she gets confused. She can’t always tell what’s real and what’s not. When she first moved in, she’d tell us stories, memories. Now, the memories aren’t there or – if they are – they are hidden behind soap operas and dramas and programmes about doing up a property. Dr Carter says it happens sometimes, as they get older, that the real memories get muddled with the things that are not there.

Dorothy’s getting weaker now. We think she’s only got a week or two left. Dilpa checked on her yesterday and Dorothy told her something that made some sort of sense. There was a documentary on about royal weddings: grand pictures of cathedrals and white dresses and horses and flags.

Dorothy said “The wedding. I must not forget the wedding.”

She sat so still and stared so hard at the TV that Dilpa thought she’d died right there and then. Dilpa watched for a while then put her hand on Dorothy’s shoulder.

“Are you going to change the channel?”

“In a moment. I want to make sure the TV remembers.”

Dorothy is giving her memories to the television, storing them in channels and programmes like so many little boxes. Each time she wants to store something from her past, she flips the channel and watches, concentrates until the memory has gone from her and into the box.

Dr Carter says he has never seen something like this before and makes notes in his little book.

We wonder what will happen to Dorothy when all of her memories have gone.

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Lizzie Boyle

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