When my Grandma R (Dad’s Mum) had dementia, I was a child. I remember her sitting in her red armchair, so frail and vulnerable. She’d call “Duck” and my Grandpa would come straight away. He was so attentive to her every need. I never knew why she called my Grandpa ‘Duck,’ but I found it so sweet. I remember my Dad, during the early stages of her dementia, advising my Grandpa to seek professional help from their GP. My Grandpa was so determined to care for his wife without any outside help. I can recall Dad being quite anxious about the situation, governed by the fact that we were in Devon and they were in Hampshire. The 2 hour distance between us did not help the situation. It was a difficult time for my Dad; balancing his job as a Head, family life and the worry over his parents. Eventually, my Grandpa had to enlist the help of services to care for my Grandma. I know this was an emotionally difficult time for an otherwise strong man.
Most of my life, I’ve been compared to my Grandma R, she was quite a little woman, who spent her life worrying about her family. My Dad always told me of the time he’d phoned her whilst he was away at College. During this telephone conversation, she’d said “Derek, you sound pale.” My parents have always found this hilarious. How could someone sound pale? However, I totally understand her. If I was talking to one my children over the phone and could detect they were tired, or not their usual self, I would visualise their pale pallor. I’m with her on this.
During the last 2 years, I have watched my Dad become increasingly exhausted. I knew I had to respect his decision to leave it a while, before we talked to the GP about Mum. I respected, but I didn’t agree. It must be so heartbreaking to see your partner of your lifetime change. There is probably an element of hiding it from the world, makes it not seem real. Who knows? But all I could see was an exhausted Dad trying his utmost to look after his wife. My Dad blames their holiday to Zakynthos, the week prior to his stroke, for his situation. He has convinced himself that the clot on his brain was due to the flight. We will never know. However, as I told the Consultant last week, he had been physically and mentally exhausted for over a year, or so. The word ‘blame’ should not come into the equation. It’s just life. I see my Dad’s situation with my Mum a mirror image of his Dad and his Mum. The frustrations and anxieties over his parents’ sad situation all those years ago, is very much my reality now.
When my Grandpa G (Mum’s Dad) had dementia, again, I was a child. He’d always been a lovely character. He used to swim in the sea in February! We would all watch as he ran into the sea at Milford-on-Sea. I remember wanting to join him, but wasn’t allowed. He was a retired Headmaster and a master of Geography. He had the most generous heart and would go out of his way to help others. Family members say that my daughter reminds them very much of him, I take this as a huge compliment. As the dementia took hold, it was so sad. We were staying at their bungalow during one Christmas. I looked out to their garden and my Grandpa had gone out in his pyjamas, with the vacuum cleaner, and was about to hoover the lawn. As a naive 10 year old, I found this hilarious. It wasn’t funny. My Mum was crying, my Grandma G was bringing him back in, she was also upset. I can remember my Mum being really cross with me for laughing.
Yesterday was a tricky day, emotionally. My Bugsy and Hats told me I was exhausted, so I should give myself a day away from my parents’ situation. This was hard. I spoke to my Mum over the phone. Hats called in. But I felt so guilty not being there. It’s so difficult when you feel so torn. I knew that they were going to have a walk. This scared me to death, as I know my Dad has no peripheral vision. I also know that Mum, despite my Dad’s current poor health, relies heavily on Dad for support when out walking. So, taking my family’s advice to have a day of ‘taking stock’ was not an easy thing for me to do yesterday. I realise I cannot be there all the time to keep them safe. But this is very hard to accept.
Again, I’m very aware of this blog seeming self-indulgent. However, it really does feel a cathartic experience for me. I’m hoping that anyone who isn’t interested, would not be reading it anyway xxxx