When her confusion isn’t making her anxious, Myra is morbidly fascinated, even half-amused, by her diminishing cognitive function.
A while back I suggested she knit a little cardigan for her new great grand-daughter. The idea delighted her, but she kept veering into anxiety: she might not be able to follow the pattern, or work with two lots of wool, or remember how to cast on, etc.
She did remember when I put the wool and needles into her hand. Muscle memory kicked in. As her fingers flew to the task she looked visibly relieved. By the time she’d cast-on and clicked out two rows, she was cheerful and chatty.
— Funny, isn’t it? My brain can’t remember, but my fingers can.
— You used to knit a lot and were very good at it.
Again she became distracted so I picked up the knitting and did a row, muttering about how slowly I knitted by comparison with her, bemoaning the fact that I didn’t even understand the terminology in patterns. ST; G; CO.
--I wish they’d come up with a way to take what’s in my brain and transplant it into yours. Then the knowledge wouldn’t be wasted, she said.
— I just got big bunch of flowers and I don’t know who from.
— What does it say on the card?
— Anna Stanley.
— And you don’t know her?
— She might be the daughter of the man in the room next door… wotshisname…?
This is not a blog about what it’s like to have a dementia. It’s about what it’s like to love and care for someone with dementia while having no prior experience of the disease. It’s about bewilderment, frustration, resentment, sorrow, and occasionally, it’s funny.
My Dear Demented is Myra, my 84-year old mother living with vascular dementia. She’s intelligent, proud and loving. Also, stubborn as a mulberry stain on white clothing, shamelessly manipulative and to quote her: ‘flippin’ furious’—often all in the course of an hour.
This blog aims to bear witness to our stumbling journey together along the road to her death. I hope the observations and reflections recorded here by me and guest writers will help us, if not others.
I have no intention of speaking for those diagnosed (or not) with a dementia. Fortunately, there are now a number of platforms where these folk are speaking for themselves,
I can only speak for myself and tell you what Myra said.
The conversations are not all bad. Oftentimes I’m enchanted by a memory Myra trots out from her childhood in war-time Leeds. Or I’ll be gobsmacked by Myra’s matter-of-fact musings about family secrets my sister and I thought we were shielding her from. Then there are her bizarre conflations, when with deceptive logic, she weaves actual incidents together and comes up with a wrong but wondrous conclusion.
Many of the entries will be in the form of reported conversations. But they are reconstructed dialogues and as a teacher of auto/biographical writing, I’m very aware of the impossibility of truth in life-writing.
I’m also aware of the cathartic capability of creative writing, so write about this, I must!