The day after I published this, a friend approached me and asked if she might use this post (crediting me) in some dementia training she was presenting on the next day. I said of course she could. She messaged me the next night to say that the delegates were "without exception, moved to tears" and that it "opened up an extremely open and emotive discussion". I'm not one for blowing my own trumpet, but I was already proud of this piece of writing and now I'm even more proud that it might, in some small way, help people understand the personal side of dementia.
The other thing is, if you can't bring yourself to read this (or even if you've always wondered what I sound like!) I did my first ever vlog, and read my post for Post40Bloggers. You can see it here:
Thank you all so much for reading, responding and sharing. If this post helps just a few people understand the personal side of dementia, that will mean the world to me.
When I first married the boys’ dad it came as quite a shock to me that all men did not know how to fix cars, rewire houses, plumb in bathrooms and kitchens or even plaster a wall.
When I was 2 we lived at my mum's parents for the best part of 18 months while my dad did up an old bungalow for us to live in. Every weekend and evening he would work on it. (the one in the backgroud of this photo).
When I was 8 we moved to an old house that hadn’t been touched since it had been built, sometime in the 1930s. It still had those funny little brown Bakelite light switches and 2 pin plugs in some places. The bathroom still had a claw-footed enamel bath – something my dad very much regretted dumping just a few years later.
At the time he worked as Chief Engineer on the oil rigs in Egypt and would work a “month on/month off” basis. So during that time he completely renovated our house. Himself. Everything (for it was before the time that you needed a billion certificates to say you could do stuff to houses). He rewired it, built new walls, knocked old ones down, built new fireplaces, he refitted the kitchen (twice eventually) and boarded out the loft for us to have as a den.
He completely did up a Datsun F11 for me as a surprise for when I passed my driving test. I was ungrateful, I wanted a Mini or a Beetle, something cool like my friends. It was only after a few months of running her that I realised how much money he had saved me and how much I loved my little car. When, nearly a year after I passed my test, a lorry ploughed into the side of her and me, he was the first person I called. When my windscreen smashed on a dual carriage way in the wind and rain, he was the first person I called.
There was nothing my dad couldn’t do. When my brother came home with a motorbike in a box they did it up together – dad even had his own for a while.
He has been round the world twice as Chief Engineer with P&O, he has been to the Artic for months on a ship, he taught the Egyptian chefs on the rig how to cook a couple of English dishes but has never been to Cornwall.
He once fell asleep with his head on the table in a restaurant and his mates stuck cocktail sticks in his curly hair so that when he went home that night he kept waking up and yelling “OUCH”, much to mother’s disgust.
He drove us all to Scotland and back several times in a Morris 1100 when we lived in Aberdeen. He laughed once at a “ramp” sign in a particular run of roadworks, until he found his head banging on the roof as we went over it.
He built a deck and a conservatory in the back garden. He renovated my grandparents’ house. He helped my brother move house in London 3 times and then lent him the deposit to buy a flat.
He terrified several boyfriends and was particularly unimpressed with one I brought home who had a Capri, an earring, and it later turned out, a girlfriend.
He took us to Cyprus before it was the place to go. He built my brother a cabin bed that would make Ikea ones look tame. He cooked BBQs in the rain but would never holiday in this country.
He has five grandchildren aged 5 - 21.
My dad can’t do those things anymore. My dad can’t remember words. Sometimes he can’t remember what clothes to put on next. My dad takes months to read a book. My dad’s canvases and acrylics lay untouched. My dad can’t drive a car. My dad can’t get a tube ticket to go in the slot. My dad stands on the wrong side of the escalator.
My dad can’t recover from the insidious dementia that is currently eating into his memories and personality. Stealing him from me. From us.
Someone called my dad “your poor old dad” on Saturday. How dare they.
He's not my 'poor old dad'. He's a super hero who has been hit by his own personal kryptonite.
Don't you dare feel sad for my dad when you don't know him.