Dementia, dad and me
Dementia, my Dad and me.A story written by one of our Bluebirds about life with her Dad who was diagnosed with vascular dementia three years ago.
When I shut my eyes and think about my Dad, the first thing I hear is the gentle chime of the necklace he always wore.
The necklace is part of him. Not a piece of jewellery, an intrinsic piece of him. One St Christopher’s; one cross and one battered silver heart.
I hear it chime as he comes upstairs, pops his head round the door, kisses me goodnight.
I am about 7 years old - and nearly off to sleep.
He smells of a heady mix of London town; the London to Brighton commuter train he gets on and off daily; Benson & Hedges and probably a glass of red wine.
We live in a big, rambling Victorian house by the sea in Brighton. In fact, it’s the house my Dad grew up in and that now, I, my mum, Dad and my six sisters live in together.
When I shut my eyes, my Dad is about 45 years old. He is tall - just over 6ft, strong and broad shouldered.
He works for the most famous ad agency in the world during the week in London - and at the weekend, builds things out of wood; digs the garden; flies kites on the Sussex Downs and swims strongly in the cold, grey sea at the end of our road.
His mind is sharp and bright. When he laughs – he laughs long and hard, throwing his head back in happiness.
I open my eyes. I touch my Dad’s necklace. I wear it now.
Now, I’m 45 years old, tucking up my own kids in bed.
Now, my Dad is 81 years old and three years ago was diagnosed with vascular dementia.
Three years that has seen our relationship radically change. Three years of intense worry, worrying as if was my own child.
It’s involved moving him from his home of 30 years in Buckinghamshire to a care home in Devon; packing up and selling his house; legal paperwork; fractious family discussions on how best to care for him; moving him to a second care home; packing and storing his loved items and memories in a container unit that a care home can’t hold; falls; hospital visits; incontinence; anger and tears.
It’s also been the best three years ever.
My dad and I have a bond so strong from our dementia journey, it is completely impenetrable by any dark force. We, in a way, have so much to thank dementia for.
In its own way, just as it takes away memories – it is creating them. Strong, bright and happy memories and moments.
The tender moments when I help dry him after a shower and dress his frail, thin, pale body; the comedy moments when I wheel him in a wheelchair for the first time in a shopping centre; the moments when we ridicule the incontinence pads and knickers he now has to wear – as he briefly glimpses “a funny side”; the amazing people and volunteers we’ve met on the way; spending specially grabbed days off from work to sit with him on the sofa at our home on Dartmoor that he loves to visit, in front of the fire, holding hands and watching Lawrence of Arabia all the way through.
So. Dementia. We say to you. Come on. If you think you’re hard enough.
We know what you are and what you will do.
Yet, you only make my Dad and I stronger and the memories your presence forces us to create and live - are some of the best we will ever have.
Here’s to lots more memories.
Love you Dad.