She finds a gold snowflake in her purse, relic of some distant Christmas. “I don’t know where it came from or what it’s for!” she tells me delightedly. Then: “I can’t remember where I’ve put anything these days.” Memory loss is both a curse and a blessing to her. She always offers it with a smile, not as an explanation but as a habitation, the place she’s speaking from. Today her kitchen doorway is crawling with ants. A robin whirs out of the garden to eat them, then makes itself at home, on the doormat, on the refrigerator, on the back of a chair, its little dark eye cocked sidewise at everything. The robin is sharp as its own beak. Its memory, unlike hers, is clear. Its sense of ownership of its own time–all the busyness she used to have–is acute. Get ants, the robin thinks, if it can be said to think: feed chicks. These were her selfsame parameters when she was young, successfully bringing up two boys and a girl. “Now, what kind of bird is that?” she asks later, suddenly a little irritable. I tell her, but she doesn’t seem to hear. “One of the things I find myself thinking about,” she says, “is how wonderful it would be to fly.” It’s then I understand what the word “disarmed” means. It means you are vulnerable. If you aren’t careful you will be forced to recognise that you don’t have a single worthwhile thing to say.