Dementia – a name befitting a goddess

“Dementia. Ruth puzzled over the diagnosis: How could such a beautiful-sounding word apply to such a destructive disease? It was a name befitting a goddess: Dementia, who caused her sister Demeter to forget to turn winter into spring.” ― Amy TanThe Bonesetter’s Daughter

Human Dementia Problems

It’s true, isn’t it? Dementia is a beautiful-sounding word. Lyrical. Musical.

It’s hard to find the beauty in dementia. There’s humour, sometimes, in the context of – “If you didn’t laugh you might cry.” Not unkind laughter. Laughter which allows a carer, a partner, a son or daughter a few moments of blessed respite.

A cousin welcomed mother-in-law into the family home to take care of her in her latter years, when she was in the grip of dementia. One day, M-in-L phoned the police. When the young constable arrived, hot foot,  at the house, M-in-L stated, very clearly, ‘I wish to report a theft.’ Then, she pointed accusingly at my cousin and said, ‘That woman stole my son!”

Daddy (my father), in the years before he died, sometimes thought he was a Spitfire pilot.

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At the time, I wasn’t quite sure whether or not to humour him. Certainly, telling him he was imagining things didn’t help. In his dementia world, he WAS a Spitfire pilot. To try to persuade him otherwise simply confused him. (Ironic, that) My policy was to listen to him for a while, then try to divert his mind on to a different (more realistic?) tack.

Me: Do you need anything, Daddy? When I leave here I’m going shopping.

Daddy: (musing) I wonder if I’ll be able to see you from the cockpit.

Fond memories of a memory that had dissolved. Fond memories because Daddy was happy in that Spitfire. Other places were dark and distressing for him. Then I’d scrabble about grasping at anything I could remember for happy talk, keep talkin’ happy talk…in words, not in South Pacific song –  because that was the only thing I could think of to do. I don’t know if it helped.

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It might have helped me, to fill the huge yawning hole that used to be my father’s mind.

The reason for writing this today? Because I’m restarting a theatre piece for a dear actress friend, long neglected (the piece, not the friend!) about dementia.

When I remember those lost memories, I know why I want to write it.

 

 

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